The Stowaway

Chapter Two

Both men were mostly silent on the way to the doctor's office. Starsky leaned against the seat with his eyes closed, and every now and then Hutch, glancing anxiously over at his partner, would see a wince of pain cross his face. He knew Starsky was trying to be strong, but it had to hurt like hell. Hutch parked the car in front of the office, braking as gently as he could so as not to jostle the other man.

"Starsk? We're here."

Starsky opened his eyes, blinking a few times in the bright sunlight. He'd barely managed to get his door open before Hutch was there to help him. With his partner's hand on his arm to steady him, Starsky walked slowly into the office. An occasional hissing intake of breath was the only indication of the pain he was feeling.

"David," greeted the office nurse warmly. "We're ready for you now."

"Hi, Sarah," Starsky returned, and followed her into an examining room. Hutch wasn't sure if his partner wanted company or not, so he hung back until Starsky turned around. "You coming?"


"After all, you got me into this." The words, spoken with Starsky's usual bantering tone, eased Hutch's mind a great deal.

"Sure, if you need someone to hold your hand, I'll be there, buddy."

"Knew I could count on you," Starsky's voice drifted back to him.

The doctor came in shortly after Sarah had taken Starsky's vital signs and gone. "What happened?" he asked.

Both detectives answered at once.

"I did it." Hutch's voice, guilty.

"It was an accident." Starsky's, firm.

Dr. Pryor looked from one man to the other, then nodded as if he understood perfectly. "Let me take a look."

Starsky eased the sweats down to his knees, carefully avoiding scraping over the burned skin. Dr. Pryor gave a low whistle. "What did this?"

"Hot coffee," Starsky replied, glaring at Hutch when his partner tried to step in and take blame again. "It was just an accident," he repeated.

"First- and second-degree burns," the doctor commented after examining the injured area. "Are you having much pain?"

"Yes, he is," Hutch broke in before Starsky could answer.

"Thought so. I'll give you something for that. I'm afraid you won't be back at work for a few days. I'm going to write a prescription for some Silvadene cream. You'll have to treat the burns twice a day with it and keep them covered with bandages." He went on to explain the method for applying the cream, and Hutch listened intently, knowing Starsky was probably hurting too much right now to pay close attention.

"Got it," Hutch said after the doctor finished speaking. "Doc, can you give him something for the pain now? I'm driving, so he'll be all right, and he's really hurting a lot."

"I'm fine, Hutch."

"That why you're gripping the edge of that table so hard your knuckles are white? Come on, Starsk, it's gotta hurt."

"I'll have the nurse give him something for the pain now, and I'll also write a prescription for some pills. Burns like this are quite painful, usually. Take them if you need them, David. Don't try to ride it out. There's really no point."

"Okay," Starsky agreed. Now that relief from his agony was imminent, he was anxious to get the interview over.

"Don't worry, I won't let him ignore it," Hutch said firmly.

"Will there be someone to look after you, David? You really shouldn't be on your own for a couple of days. Walking is going to be more difficult than you imagine right now."

"I'll be there."

"Will you stop answering for me," Starsky said crossly. "Yeah, Doc, Blondie here'll take care of me. It's what he does best."

The doctor smiled and handed Hutch Starsky's prescriptions. "I'll want to see you back in about four days. Make an appointment before you go."

When the doctor left, Hutch turned to his partner. "Starsky, I'm so sorry, I--"

"Stop it, Hutch. Just stop. I know you didn't do it on purpose.

You wouldn't do something like that." But Hutch's hurtful words just before the coffee spilled--the ones Hutch claimed he never uttered--still stung, and that kind of ache, Starsky wasn't sure how to deal with.

The nurse entered the room with a syringe in her hand, and Hutch took the opportunity to step out and book Starsky's next appointment. He made a mental note to call Dobey as soon as he got Starsky home and settled, and break the bad news to him that they were both going to need more time off. 'We'll be lucky if we get paid at all next week,' he thought grimly, but pushed the thought aside. Both of them had enough money in savings to cover a short paycheck, should worse come to worst. Besides, it was only another week or so. Starsky probably had enough junk food in his apartment to feed both of them for at least that long. He might die of indigestion, but he wouldn't starve.

After they left the doctor's, Hutch drove to the nearest supermarket that he knew also contained a pharmacy. "You hungry at all, Starsk?"

Starsky just shook his head. He'd slumped against the door and was almost asleep already from the medicine the nurse had shot him up with.

"I'm gonna go get your prescriptions filled then, buddy. I'll be right back."


While the pharmacist filled Starsky's prescriptions, Hutch took a cart and pushed it up and down the frozen food aisle. Starsky had recently spent--in Hutch's opinion--way too much money on a microwave oven, and now he was addicted to the convenience. He'd probably starve without it, Hutch told himself with a chuckle as he loaded up some of his partner's favorites. He added some yogurt, bagels, and fixings for a salad for himself, then on impulse put a couple of thick steaks in the cart. Starsk probably wouldn't feel like eating them tonight, but maybe tomorrow. Starsky's favorite flavor of ice cream rounded out the order, and after picking up the medicine he paid for it all and left.

Hutch noticed Starsky didn't even stir while he loaded groceries into the trunk of his car.

"You still with me, Starsk?"


He guessed that was a yes. The drive back to Starsky's place took around fifteen minutes, and he unloaded all the groceries and put them away before disturbing his partner.

"Come on, buddy," Hutch said, opening the passenger door and shaking Starsky gently. "We've got to get you upstairs."

Starsky opened his eyes groggily. "Hutch?"

"Yeah. We're at your place. Can you walk upstairs, or do I have to carry you?"

The thought of being carried by his partner was enough to wake Starsky briefly, and Hutch managed to get him upstairs with only one slight stumble. He guided Starsky toward the bedroom and settled him on his back, then pulled off Starsky's shoes and socks. The sweatpants were more difficult, but he finally managed to get them off with only a couple of brief moans from his friend.

"Must have been some good stuff that nurse gave you," Hutch muttered. He took the medical supplies out of the bag and, after reading the instructions on the Silvadene cream, washed his hands and carefully followed them. Once the bandages were in place, he took a light blanket and threw it over his sleeping partner. Starsky never even stirred during his ministrations.

Hutch reported to Dobey, made himself a salad and ate it, then read for a few hours until he heard Starsky stir.

"You awake?" he asked, standing in the bedroom door.

Starsky blinked sleepily. "Sorta. How long was I out?"

"About four hours."

"Geez." He yawned. "Don't know what she gave me, but it worked."

"Hurting any?"

"Nope. Not right now anyway. 'm hungry."

"How about some peanut butter fudge ripple ice cream?"

Starsky's eyes widened. "You bought that for me?"

"Figured it was the least I could do after nearly castrating you."

Starsky snorted. "Don't worry, Hutch, that isn't injured."

"Good thing, or you'd have never forgiven me."


"Be right back."

Starsky tried to sit himself up, making very little progress without being able to use his legs to help. When Hutch returned, he placed two bowls of ice cream on the night table and grabbed his partner under the arms. A quick tug had Starsk sitting upright, and Hutch tucked the pillows behind his back. A memory of the vision he'd had the night before flashed quickly across his mind, and he blocked it out just as quickly. Stupid, he told himself, he was being stupid.

Starsky accepted the bowl of ice cream his partner thrust into his hands, and the two of them ate silently for a few minutes. When he'd finally scraped out the last bit of the tasty snack his spoon could capture, Starsky put the bowl aside and leaned back into the pillows.


"Hmm?" Hutch asked, still working on his ice cream.

"We gotta talk about this."

"About what?" Hutch asked, his eyes not meeting Starsky's.

"You know what. What happened there at the station?"

"What do you mean? I accidentally spilled coffee on you, that's what happened."

"Yeah, I know it was an accident. I know it was an accident because it's you, Hutch, but if it was anybody else..."

Hutch raised his eyes then, and the look in them made Starsky pause. There was such an expression of anger there--something he wasn't used to seeing on Hutch's face, not directed at him. He swallowed the sudden lump in his throat and continued. "If it was anybody else, I'd'a said they did it on purpose."

There. It was out. Hutch could make of that what he wanted.

Before his partner could answer, the phone beside Starsky's bed rang, and he reached over to answer it, not taking his eyes off the blond. Hutch's expression had gone from intensely furious to confused all in the space of one ring of the telephone.


"Starsky? It's Kathy Richardson. How are you feeling?"

Realizing she probably didn't know about his most recent mishap, he assured her, "I'm better, Kathy, thanks."

"We sure missed you at the party last night. Hey, Hutch isn't still mad, is he?"


"Yeah, he was pretty upset when he left here. I admit, it was a dumb thing to do, but we were all a little drunk, and it was just a stupid party game. If I ever find out who was moving that thing, though, I'll kick their asses, you tell Hutch that for me, okay?"

"Yeah, sure, I'll tell him."

"You take care, now, Starsky. Bye."

"Bye." He put the phone down by touch, still not moving his gaze from his partner.

"Kathy?" Hutch asked unnecessarily.

"She hopes you're not still mad."

"Oh." Hutch raised both eyebrows, as if the question of him being angry was a silly one, and gathered up their bowls.

Starsky waited while Hutch washed the dishes, dried them, and put them away. It was clear the other man was stalling, and the more he did, the more curious Starsky grew.

When Hutch finally ran out of excuses to stay in the kitchen, he wandered back to Starsky's bedside. Starsky patted the side of the bed, but it wasn't an invitation. It was a command. Hutch obeyed, carefully studying his shoes.

"Tell me what happened at the party last night."

Hutch shrugged nonchalantly. "It was nothing, just a stupid game."

"Yeah, so she said. What was it about a stupid game that made you angry enough to leave the party?"

"Look, Starsk, we'd all had a few too many beers, I guess."

"She said that, too."

"And Kathy had this stupid board game she'd picked up yesterday."

"What game?"

Hutch turned deliberately to stare at Starsky, and again Starsky saw something unfamiliar flicker in the pale blue eyes. "Why are you pushing this?"

"Because I want to know what's been eating you all day. And don't deny that something has. You never would'a spilled coffee on me on a normal day, Hutch. Something's bothering you."

Hutch continued staring for a moment, but when Starsky didn't back down or look away, the odd flicker died out in his eyes and it was just Hutch again. He sighed.

"She had a Ouija board, okay? I didn't even want to participate, but like an idiot I let them talk me into it. And then--well, Starsk, one or more of our so-called friends has a very bizarre sense of humor."

"What happened?"

"Nothing, at first. I didn't even have my hands on the damn thing. Then they said it wouldn't work without everybody playing, and you know how Richardson gets those big puppy-dog eyes and that pout..."

Starsky shot his partner a sympathetic grin. "You let her get to you."

"In a big way. So I went ahead and put my fingers on the stupid thing, and the next thing I know, it's spelling out my name."


"And what?"

"And--I know there's more to the story that you're still not telling me. You wouldn't be upset over it spelling out your name. What did it say that makes you believe someone has a bizarre sense of humor?"

Hutch sighed again. "Starsk, just drop it, okay?"

"No way, buddy. You're in this too deep now. You have to tell me everything."

"Fine!" Hutch bit out, rising from the bed. He started out of the room, and then turned back to point his finger at his partner. "It told me...Starsky, it told me to kill you."

From the way Hutch had been acting, Starsky suspected it had been something along those lines, so he was somewhat prepared. He never missed a beat.

"You're not gonna do it, are you?"

Hutch, who had turned away again, ostensibly to go to the bathroom, swung around to glare at his partner. It wasn't until he saw the twinkle in Starsky's eyes that he realized the other man was joking.

"Don't tempt me," he advised with a wink before disappearing around the corner.

After he'd gone, Starsky's slight smile faded away. He didn't know much about these things, but one thing he did know was Hutch, and Hutch had most definitely been acting strangely today.

In fact, he'd been a little off last night, for a few minutes there.

Thinking it best not to pursue the matter further just now, Starsky let it drop, and when Hutch returned, he challenged his partner to a game of chess.


Two days later, Starsky was beginning to seriously worry about his friend.

It wasn't like Hutch, usually so cheerful and optimistic, to be in such a foul mood for such a long time. He'd been rude, abrupt, and even downright nasty a time or two in the past few days. Starsky had tried to talk him into going back to work, claiming he'd be fine on his own for a few hours, but if nothing else, Hutch's sense of duty kept him at Starsky's side.

The only thing was, Starsky was growing more than a little afraid that Hutch might do something besides just yell at him. He walked on verbal eggshells, and sometimes it was enough, but it was almost like Hutch resented being there.

And that wasn't like Hutch, either. Not at all. They'd always cared for one another when they were ill or injured. Sure, Hutch had been putting in some Starsky-overtime lately, what with the flu and now this injury, but it wasn't as if that had never happened before, either.

Something was just...not right. Starsky felt as if there was a stranger roaming his apartment, and he didn't like being even partially at this person's mercy.

"Time for this again," Hutch announced, coming from the bathroom with the Silvadene cream and gauze bandages. Starsky noted with relief that for the moment, Hutch sounded like himself.

"I can do it, Hutch," he offered, but Hutch shook his head.

"No you can't. You can't reach all the places it needs to go without hurting yourself. Just let me, Gordo."

"Okay," Starsky agreed reluctantly, "but I really can do it."

Hutch ignored him, and pulled off the old bandages as carefully as he could. He winced when the tape pulled at the hair on Starsky's legs. "Sorry."


After removing the old bandages, Hutch began gently spreading the cream over Starsky's burns with a sterile tongue depressor. Starsky leaned back against the pillows and closed his eyes. The cream was cool, and as long as Hutch was careful, having it applied wasn't overly painful. He hadn't even needed one of his pain pills today.

Hutch was almost finished, having covered the lesser of the burns, and was now making his way to where the blisters were, when Starsky gasped and his eyes flew open in shock. His partner was no longer even attempting to be gentle--in fact, he was slapping the tongue depressor angrily against Starsky's burned skin.


"Shut up!" Hutch growled, and Starsky's eyes widened at the low, unfamiliar voice.

Afraid to say anything that might further enrage his partner, Starsky gritted his teeth, clenched his hands into fists, and rode it out. By the time Hutch was ready to apply fresh bandages, whatever force had gripped him had subsided, and he was once again the tender friend Starsky knew.

"You okay, buddy?" Hutch asked, nothing but concern on his face as he noticed the slight tearing in Starsky's eyes. "You're white as these sheets. You hurting?"

"Yeah," Starsky managed, breathing heavily.

"Hang on, I'll get you some water and you can take a pain pill."

The idea of being in a drugged sleep while Hutch was in his apartment suddenly scared Starsky to death.

"No, I'm okay, Hutch. I'd rather just deal with it. You know I hate what those things do to me."

"Starsk, there's no point in you lying there in pain--"

"Really, it's not that bad."

Hutch studied his partner for a few seconds, then came to the bed and sat down deliberately. "What's wrong?"

"Wrong?" Starsky had to use all his willpower not to draw back, but this was Hutch for God's sake!

"You act like you're afraid of something."

"Just tired, I guess. Look, I'll be fine here now. You should go on home tonight. Sleeping on my sofa can't be doing your back any good."

Hutch's brow furrowed with his frown. "You sure?"

"Yeah. If it'll make you feel better, you could come by tomorrow and put the cream on before you go to work." Even as he said the words, Starsky felt a coldness in the pit of his stomach. Maybe he'd take a pain pill tomorrow before Hutch arrived. That should protect him from any repeat of the odd behavior of a few minutes ago.

Hutch patted his knee softly. "Think I'll do that, then, if you really don't mind being alone. I'll have the phone right next to me, though. You gotta promise to call if you need anything, Starsk."

"Promise. Go home, get some decent sleep for a change. I'll be fine."

"Sure you don't want that pain pill? You're sweating, and you still look pale."

"Nah, I'll be okay. Go on, Hutch. You deserve a break. All you've done for the past two weeks is take care of me."

"I'll be here at seven."

"I'll have coffee ready."

"Uh-uh. Don't want you up and about. I'll bring the coffee."

"Donuts too?" Starsky asked hopefully.

Hutch smiled. "You bet, partner. Night."

"G'night, Hutch."

Starsky lay in the bed, listening carefully for the sound of Hutch driving away. It was at least half an hour before he relaxed fully. When he finally did, he limped into the kitchen and swallowed one of his pills. Then he reached for the telephone and dialed The Pits.

"Diane? Get me Huggy, would you? Hey, Hug, it's Starsky."

"Starsky, m'man, what can I do for you?"

"I need a favor. And I need you to keep it just between the two of us."

"Uh oh. Last time you asked me to do that, it was bad news."

"It's not bad news yet, Huggy. Just something I want to check up on without Hutch knowing. Can I trust you?"

"You gotta ask?" Huggy demanded indignantly. "What is it you need?"

"Tomorrow, I need you to get me some books from the library."


True to his word, Hutch arrived promtly at seven, bearing coffee, a bagel for himself, and two chocolate covered donuts for Starsky.

"You're too good to me, pal," Starsky grinned, accepting the offering and biting happily into a donut. "How was Dobey when you told him you'd be back at work today?"

"Grumpy because you weren't," Hutch answered. "But I told him not to look for you until Monday."

"I could probably go in and get some desk work done," Starsky mused. "I'm not exactly bedridden now, Hutch."

"I know, but I'd rather you didn't. The doctor said you were susceptible to infection, and you never know what kind of scum you'll run into down at the station. Besides, until he sees you on Friday, you should consider yourself not cleared for duty."

"Yes, Ma," Starsky sighed, licking the chocolate from his fingers.

In the warm light of the rising sun, he could almost forget how much last night's bandage change had hurt him, and he'd overslept this morning so he hadn't had a chance to down that pain pill he'd planned to take before Hutch got here. Now he could only pray that whatever weirdness was periodicaly gripping his partner would be absent this morning. It had taken him two hours to fall asleep last night because of the throbbing in his thighs, and that was after taking one of his pills prior to his talk with Huggy.

Starsky soon found out he needn't have worried. Hutch was his usual careful self while tending his partner's burns, and after finishing up with fresh bandages and washing his hands, even fluffed the pillows and made sure Starsky was completely comfortable.

"I really don't like leaving you alone all day. It was different while you were asleep, but if you should need something--"

"Hutch, I promise, if anything happens and I need you, I'll call. And if you're really going to fret, you can always drop by here on your lunch break."

"Oh, I plan to do that. I'll bring you something disgusting to eat."

Starsky grinned widely. "Thanks, buddy."

Hutch left, reluctantly, and Starsky lay back on the pillows, thinking hard. It was so easy this morning to tell himself that he'd imagined all the odd things Hutch had done the night before.

And even if his partner had been a little rough with the treatment, he was tired. He'd been taking care of Starsky non-stop for so long, and Hutch tended to worry more than was necessary anyway. It was probably just stress, coupled with fatigue. And Starsky had to admit that when he was forced to let Hutch take care of him, he could be more than a bit of a pain in the ass at times. It was his way of coping with the loss of control.

Starsky spent the morning in front of the television, dozing mostly, since daytime TV was enough to rot anyone's brain. By the time he heard Hutch fumbling at the door, his stomach was beginning to growl.

"Hey," the blond called, stepping into the apartment and shutting the door. "What are you doing up?"

"Got tired of looking at the ceiling," Starsky answered. "What did you bring me?"

Hutch grinned and held out a white paper bag that already had a few grease spots forming on the bottom. "Just what I promised. Something disgusting."

"Tacos!" Starsky crowed, recognizing the bag from his favorite Mexican take-out. "Thanks, Hutch."

"Sure." Hutch sat down next to Starsky and opened a deli sandwich for himself. "Boring around there without you, though. Dobey's been bellowing all morning, too."

"Sorry," Starsky offered, not really sounding sorry at all. "What's his beef?"

"He keeps muttering something about his best pair of detectives being out of work soon, just before he yells at somebody to sign something, or finish some report, or clarify something written in the report we haven't signed."

Starsky grimaced. "Sounds like he's really on the rampage."

"Ah, he'll get over it. I called Edith and begged her to get him off our backs. When I left, she was just arriving with a special lunch she'd made for him. He should be a pussycat this afternoon."

Starsky almost choked on his taco laughing. "Now why didn't I ever think of that?"

"Desperate times call for desperate measures. How are you doing this morning? Any pain?"

"Nope, I'm fine. Huggy's supposed to drop by later, so I'm sure he'll take his turn at nagging me."

The moment the words were out, Starsky realized his mistake.

"What's Huggy coming over for?"

"Uh, I think he just wants to check up on me. Did you put him up to that, Hutch?"

"You know very well I didn't," Hutch replied, and his voice was quietly controlled. "What's going on, Starsk?"

"Nothing, I just--"

"Don't lie to me!"

Starsky actually jumped, the change in Hutch was so sudden and so frightening.

"Hutch, I'm not lying! Huggy just called to see how I was doing last night and he said he might drop by this afternoon. It's no big deal. Honest."

Any further argument was interrupted by a knock at the door. Starsky blanched. It had to be Huggy, and if he'd done as Starsky requested, his arms would be full of incriminating reading material.

"I'll get it," Hutch said, pushing gently on Starsky's shoulder as his partner tried to stand. "You just stay put."

Starsky obeyed, feeling in the pit of his stomach that something very bad was about to happen. The rapid switches from Normal-Hutch to Evil-Pod-Person-Hutch and back to Normal-Hutch were giving him a headache. He feared that was soon to be the least of his worries.

"Huggy, hi," Hutch greeted, swinging the door open. "What's all this?" He reached to take a few of the books that were beginning to slide from Huggy's arms.

"Oh, just...uh..."

"Dark Stories of Ouija," Hutch read. "The Truth Behind the Parlor Game. Huggy, what the hell is all this about?"

"I asked him to bring them," Starsky said from behind Hutch. "I just wanted to know a little more about--"

"You asked him!" Hutch flared. "Why? To spy on me?"

"Spy on you?" Huggy demanded. "Hutch, have you lost your mind? Starsky wouldn't no more spy on you than--"

"Oh, can it, Huggy. It wouldn't be the first time he went behind my back, and you know it." He turned to Starsky. "So I was right," he sneered. "You were lying. This is no visit just to check up on you."

Starsky, trying to gain control of a situation that was rapidly unraveling, put a hand on Hutch's arm. "Hutch, calm down. Will you just let me explain?"

Hutch jerked his arm away roughly. "Don't tell me to calm down! I want to know what this is all about, and I want to know right now. I want to know why you have Huggy sneaking around, doing your dirty work--"

"Why are you so sure this is all about you? For your information, Blondie, the world don't revolve around your hind end."

Hutch stopped, taken aback by Huggy's vehemence.

"Starsky asked me to pick up these books because a friend told him she was concerned."

"Kathy?" Hutch asked Starsky.


"Yeah, Kathy." Huggy caught on quickly, although he'd never actually heard the woman's name before. "She was worried about something that happened at a party the other night, and Starsky said he'd help her out."

"Tell me what happened, Starsk," Hutch invited in a voice so silky that Starsky knew they hadn't fooled him one bit. "After all, Kathy's my friend, too. Maybe I can help."

"Sure, Hutch, I'll tell you all about it, after Huggy's gone. He doesn't want to hear this stuff."

"Darn right, I don't," Huggy agreed. "I told you, Starsky, this stuff is bad news. The stories I could tell you--"

"Don't," Hutch ordered. "He doesn't need anymore strange ideas in his head."

"Thanks, Huggy," Starsky said, practically shoving his friend toward the door. "I know you have to get back to get ready for the dinner rush."

Huggy looked from Hutch to Starsky. The message he saw in Starsky's eyes was disconcerting. 'Go,' it said, 'go now. Please.'

"You call me if you need anything," he said, stressing the last word. Starsky nodded, thanked him again, and shut the door behind him.

Then he turned to face his partner, wondering which of the two Hutches it would be. He was afraid he could guess.

"So," Hutch said, flipping through one of the books Huggy had dropped on the coffee table. "You want to tell me what this big problem is with Kathy, buddy?" His voiced dripped sarcasm.

"Hutch," Starsky said softly, leaning against the front door, "I don't want to argue with you. It's just that, ever since that've said and done some pretty odd things."

Hutch looked up, pinning Starsky to the door with his gaze. "Odd?" he asked, dropping the book and slowly advancing.

"Yes." Starsky raised his chin defiantly. If Hutch wanted a fight, he was going to give as good as he was able. He didn't have much doubt Hutch could beat him, not given his present condition, but he wasn't going to go down easy. "You've said things, and done things that the Hutch I know would never do or say."

"Such as?" Hutch continued to advance.

"Such as dumping that coffee on my lap, for one thing!" Starsky retorted. "I know we both pretended it was an accident, but Hutch, I know what I saw! And I know what I heard that day, too. And then last night, when you were putting that cream on my legs--you hurt me deliberately, buddy. But the thing is, I don't think it was really you."

"And just who do you think it was?" Hutch asked, his voice still deadly calm. He stood directly before Starsky now, and Starsky forced himself to meet Hutch's eyes.

"I think some sort of--of--spirit or demon or something got into you at that party," he said levelly. "And I think that spirit or whatever it is, for whatever reason, wants to hurt me."

"That's insane."

"Maybe. But how do you explain not even remembering what you said to me? And you did say it, Hutch. And then when you hurt me last night, in the next minute you were all soft and gentle, like you'd normally be if you were doing something like that. And Hutch, you've been that way all week! First you yell at me, then you act like it never happened. I think you do that because you don't even remember it happening."

"That," Hutch announced, reaching out and gripping Starsky's biceps tightly, "is the stupidest thing I've ever heard you say."


"Do you really think--" Hutch pulled him away from the door, not letting go of his arms, and began to shake him roughly. "--do you honestly believe that I'm...what?...possessed or something? Is that what you think, Starsky?"

"Hutch, let go of me, you're--"

Hutch swung him around and shoved him onto the couch, falling atop Starsky and pinning him down. Starsky let out a yelp when Hutch's body landed on his burned legs.

Hutch kept on shaking Starsky, slamming his head into the sofa cushion hard enough to hurt, and Starsky struggled beneath the larger man for all he was worth. Hutch seemed stronger, or maybe Starsky was weaker from his illness, but he couldn't seem to get the upper hand, and they were usually pretty evenly matched.

Just when Starsky had resigned himself to enduring the agony until Hutch decided to stop, his partner froze.

"Oh," Hutch said softly, staring down at Starsky with horror in his eyes. "Oh, God. Starsk. What--"

"Couldja get off me, please?" Starsky gasped. "Hurts."

Hutch stood up, and helped his partner to a sitting position.

"Starsky, I don't know what--did I do this to you? I don't understand--I don't remember--Starsk, how did I end up--?" He ran his fingers through his blond hair, clearly agitated.

Starsky fought to get his breathing under control while he watched his partner warily. When Hutch dropped into a chair, frightened and confused, he leaned forward and lay a comforting hand on the blond man's knee.

"Hutch, please, buddy," he almost begged. "You gotta let me try to help you."

Go to Chapter Three