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The Baron Returns

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"I'm late again," Starsky worried, as he pulled up beside the small canal-side cottage. "Hutch is gonna kill me."
He was surprised that his partner was not standing outside waiting for him, especially after the threats he had issued the previous night.
After a couple of minutes he leaned on the horn but when Hutch did not appear he alighted from the Torino and pausing only to wipe a miniscule spot from the hood with his sleeve, he approached Hutch's door.
However his cop senses went on high alert when he realised the door stood ajar and there was no sign of his partner.

The brunet instinctively reached for his gun. The crinkling of his leather holster seemed louder than usual. His eyes focused on the opened door, he leaned his back against the wall of the cottage. Carefully he kicked the door. It creaked and hit the wall with a shuddering thud. Taking a deep breath he turned swiftly landing with his feet apart knees bent and gun drawn.

"HUTCH?” Silence. “Will ya answer me, ya big Lummox?"

Starsky could feel his heartbeat in his throat as a wave of nausea over took him. The living room housed a chaos of overturned furniture. The brunet scanned the room, his shoulders tense with anxiety and fear. The bathroom door was closed and caught Starsky's attention.

"Hutch? You in there?"

 

The gun quivered in his left hand as he turned the knob slowly and allowed the door to open. On the floor, in a heap, was his partner.

Starsky dropped to the floor beside his partner, quickly checking for a pulse. Relieved to find Hutch still alive, he gently turned him over onto his back. That was when he found two bullet holes – one in his right shoulder and the other in his stomach. With all the blood already lost he knew there was no time to waste. He quickly carried his partner to the Torino and, with lights and sirens going, rushed him to the hospital.

Starsky, ever so gently, picked up his partner and carried him into the hospital, screaming for help. He laid Hutch on a gurney and ran behind the nurse and doctor pushing it. Once in the triage room Hutch began to wake up and was weakly calling for Starsky who was beside him holding onto his hand trying to send strength. A single tear dropped.

Starsky stood by his partner to the very last moment before the medical personnel shooed him out in exasperation. He couldn't think, couldn't breathe past the shock that this had happened, today, a perfectly ordinary morning like a thousand others.
His feet took him to the bathroom; he opened the faucet on autopilot, uncaring of the person who had entered just after him, breaking his privacy. He kept his head down, withdrawn, and it was only after he was shoved into the tiled wall, the blow to his abdomen stealing the breath from him, that his mind registered he'd never been safe either.

 Starsky gathered up all the strength he could muster in his weakened state and fought back. He wasn’t just fighting for himself but for Hutch too. He shoved the man into the mirror. The man ran out of the room before Starsky could get a look at his face. He knew the man was white, about 6-foot-tall, was wearing a blue hat, and left a trail of blood as he ran. Exhausted Starsky slumped to the cold, hard floor.

In the waiting room fellow cops and of course Captain Dobey and Huggy Bear were all waiting on word about Hutch. All of a sudden, a 6-foot-tall man wearing a blue hat, which was bloody, ran by them. Someone said he came out of the bathroom where Starsky was. Captain Dobey and Huggy ran to the bathroom where they found Starsky, bruising already starting, trying to get himself up.

Dobey and Huggy both took an arm to hoist him up and noticed Starsky could not straighten up. Dobey immediately raised his shirt and there was a large, bluish-green bruise on his abdomen.

“How's Hutch?” Starsky managed to gasp, his face contorted by pain.

Huggy immediately shook his head and said,” Why is it when one of you are hurt, your concern is the other one?”

Starsky replied,” Me and Thee”.

 Starsky leaned more onto Dobey and Huggy as he tried to find the strength to stand on his own. In the back of his mind, through his jumbled memory, something about the guy that attacked him was trying to register. But no matter how hard he tried the memory would not form. Suddenly though, he had a terrible feeling and knew he had to get to Hutch; he knew Hutch was in danger. Breaking free with a strength he found from down deep, Starsky ran from the bathroom to where he had left Hutch. Bursting through the exam room doors, Starsky was relieved to see that his partner was OK. But as Starsky walked closer to Hutch's bed fear crept over the brunet. On the bed, so very close to Hutch, was a dagger, its deadly point holding a bag of clear glass stones.

Huggy made it to Starsky about two steps before Dobey, just in time to see his face drain of all color. Starsky looked at his boss as he reached for the dagger that was still too close to his injured partner. The Captain grabbed his hand. "No son, this is evidence. We have to treat it as such. They are ready to take Hutch to surgery so we will just leave it there until the crime lab guys get here. Do you have any idea what this is about?"

Starsky racked his brain trying to think. He knew that guy in the bathroom looked familiar but could not remember why. Then he had a thought. He asked Dobey what the crime lab guys had done with Hutch's gun after they processed his place. Dobey told him they did not find it and he thought Starsky had it.

"OK,” said Starsky. “I think I have part of this figured out. Whoever shot Hutch was not there to shoot him, but to search his place. This is what I was trying to think of – Hutch was shot with his own gun and now it is missing."

Dobey interrupted, "What have I told you two about private parties?! Why didn't you tell me there was someone after you? How do you know Hutch was shot with his own gun?"

"That's just it. I don't know what this is about. The first indication I had there was trouble was finding Hutch shot. I know it was his gun because I know what wounds from his gun look like, he's carried it long enough. You can bet I am going to find out though!"

They came to get Hutch to take him to surgery. Starsky looked like he was going to try to follow. He reached out for Hutch's hand and told him he would be right there waiting when he came back. As he turned to the waiting room he slowly crumpled to the floor. Huggy caught him and eased him down as Dobey bellowed for a doctor.

As a nurse ran up to them, Starsky groaned and clutched his stomach. "Oh God, it hurts like when I was poisoned." The nurse shouted for an orderly and he came running towards them with a gurney. A doctor joined them and they lifted Starsky onto it. He rolled to his left side, curling into a fetal position as they moved him to a room. Dobey and Huggy stood watching with both fear and disbelief as their other friend was now whisked away from them.

There was a note lying on the gurney Hutch was just taken from which, when he read it, made Dobey's fear grow. "No one steals from The Baron...and lives to tell of it. I want those Belvedere Diamonds back now! Or you both will die...soon!”

"Just what is happening here?" Dobey demanded.

"I don't know, Captain, but it's not good. If we aren't careful we are going to lose both our boys," Huggy shook his head.

Starsky was writhing and groaning. He hated to show any weakness but he couldn't help it. The pain in his abdomen was too intense. He cried out when the doctor put pressure over the swollen and bruised area of his abdomen. The doctor stood back and fired orders out to prep the patient for immediate surgery for an abdominal bleed.

 So, there they were, side by side in the same room, both having had surgery. Captain Dobey sat in between his boys, head bowed and praying.

Huggy came through the door and was about to say something but Captain Dobey shushed him and pointed to the door. "They're both sleeping. Tell me outside." 

 

Once in the hallway, Huggy nervously looked around. "I know what this is about and I know who is trying to kill them." 

Captain Dobey stared at him a minute, "Well, are you going to tell me or keep it to yourself?"

"The Baron. Remember years ago, they went undercover in at large hotel and the Baron tried to steal the diamonds? I pretended to be..."

"A prince. How could we have forgotten that Baron? And no one knows what he looks like?"

"Not true, El Capeetan. When he made us lay down on the floor in the elevator, I peeked." 

"That's right you were there too."

"Not only was I there, I'm the one who made the switch."

Without warning, Huggy leaned forward and grabbed his abdomen. He yelled out in pain. "I'm afraid, he got to me too."

"I need a doctor! I need help!" Dobey yelled.

 As they rolled Huggy away, Captain Dobey looked in disbelief from Huggy to Hutch to Starsky trying to take it all in.

 Dobey watched carefully as three gurneys were rolled down a quiet hospital hallway, police posted along the way, forming a blue wall of security and safety. The Captain had convinced the doctors that Starsky, Hutch and Huggy all needed to be in the same room. A killer was after them and this was the best way he could think of to watch over them and keep them safe. Plus, Dobey knew they would get better faster if the three were all together. Starsky stirred in his bed, calling for the Captain. Dobey walked quickly to his side, taking his hand.

"Be quiet son," Dobey said gently to his brunet detective. "You're going to be fine. You just need to rest."

"Cap, listen to me," Starsky whispered urgently. "I heard you talking about the Baron. I know who he is. He's the jewel thief. Remember the Belvedere Diamonds? I heard you, Cap, you gotta..."

"Starsky," Dobey said with a gentle gruffness. "We know who the Baron is. There's an APB out on him now. You rest, son. We'll find him. You rest now."

And with that Starsky calmed, knowing deep inside, his Captain, his friend, would indeed handle things. But he only remained calm for a moment. Then Dobey had his hands full keeping him in bed as he tried to get to Hutch.

"Starsky!” Dobey quietly bellowed (amazing how the man could do that). "Settle down! Hutch is going to be OK, but you are going to tear your stitches out like this. Don't worry, the three of you are going to be in the same room. You will be able to see how Hutch and Huggy are doing for yourself."

Starsky calmed again, then did a double take. "What do you mean Huggy? What happened to him?”

Dobey then explained that he and Huggy had figured out who they were dealing with too late to keep him from getting to Huggy. "Don't worry,” he told his worried friend. "I am not letting anything else happen to any of you. We will catch this guy."

Dobey explained to Starsky that his liver had been lacerated when he was attacked but it was a small laceration and an easy fix. "But you will stay in this hospital until the doctor says otherwise and I don't want to hear any arguments about it," he said firmly.

"What happened to Huggy? What did the Baron do to him?" Starsky asked, gritting his teeth because of his own pain. 

"Poison. But the doctors figured out what it was from a blood test and gave him an antidote. He'll be here a couple days too." 

What the Captain did not know was that he was next on the Baron's list and he was determined to kill his next target after failing to get Starsky, Hutch or Huggy.

********************************************************************************

The more the Good Captain thought about it, the more he was convinced that the Baron would continue to try to harm his boys. He also came to the conclusion that he could possibly be the next target. His mind made up, he decided that Edith and the kids needed to go visit her sister right away. He left trusted officers guarding the room and went to find a phone. He told Edith to call her sister and start packing, he would be home in a few minutes to explain. He knew she would not want to go, he loved how much her love for him shone through in her loyalty. He would just have to make her understand that he would be safer if he did not have to worry about the Baron hurting his family. In the end, she would go, to protect the children. As Dobey headed towards his car, his thoughts were heavy with the conversation he was about to have with his wife. He did not notice the janitor watching him closely, and then making a phone call just as the captain left the hospital.

 As soon as the call ended the janitor walked past the guards pushing his cart right into the room with the three sleeping patients. The policeman that was at his post in the room watched the janitor closely. Just as he asked how his day was going, a single shot rang out.

Starsky and Hutch sat straight up. "What the hell was that?" Starsky yelled. He held his stomach and winced from the pain his sudden movement caused.

"I got him," the officer yelled. He rolled the suspect over and saw the man was still alive. He kicked the gun out of the suspect's reach. "I saw the gun. He was about to shoot you, Starsky." The officer cuffed the suspect and yelled for help.

The suspect moaned, "You're wrong. I wasn't after Starsky, I was going to kill all three of them." Huggy, who had slept through the drama, mumbled, “Can't a guy get some sleep around here?"

Hutch chuckled, "And I thought you could sleep through anything," he said to Starsky.

"Hutch!" Starsky yelled. "You're awake!"

Hutch smiled, washed out and heavy-lidded but definitely better. "Do I look awake?" A beat. "Hey are you alright? I know what happened to me but why do you look like death warmed over and why are you in pain!?!"

"Hutch, hey, easy." Starsky sprang up again, doubling over as it pulled at his tender abdomen.

Hutch looked from him to Huggy and back again, trying to take in the scene. "Are you shot? And why is Huggy over there? What is going on?"

Now Hutch was getting frantic, trying to get up, but, before Starsky could do something as stupid as try to get to him and find himself flat on the floor, it was Huggy who started recollecting things for them both, although to little avail. Hutch was the first one to succumb to the pull of weakness and medicines, with Starsky following him soon after. Just as Huggy realized he was talking to himself, a dishevelled Captain Dobey opened the door.

Huggy just stared at his friends' boss for a moment before finding his voice. "Captain, what happened to you? You look like you have had an unfriendly conversation with a less than savory character. Are you OK?"

The captain took a deep breath. "I don't know how many people are involved in this, Huggy. I am hoping the guy that was just dragged out of here can shed some light. I went home to get my family out of harm's way until this is wrapped up. They are safely on their way to her sister. On my way back here, I was run off the road by a tow truck. I was not hurt, but by the time I climbed back to the road, he was gone. We need to wrap this up, fast!"

Huggy suddenly looked very worried. "Captain, someone followed you?"

Captain Dobey knew that Huggy was not at 100%, but why did he always have to state the obvious? "Yes, I was followed, I thought I made that clear!" He hadn't meant to yell, but he managed to wake the partners up.

Starsky found his voice first. "What happened to you?"

Before he could get an answer, Huggy interrupted. "Captain, did you check to make sure the Missus made it to her sister's? If someone followed you...” Dobey ran for the phone. Edith should have made it to her sister's by now. The phone was answered quickly and he asked his sister-in-law if Edith and the kids were there. The relief on his face was all the boys needed to know – they were safe, for now.

Hutch spoke very quietly, "Captain, you need to call the police department there and have them keep an eye on your family. Huggy is right, if they followed you, they could have followed Edith. We need help. Starsky and I are in no condition to be pounding the streets right now. I am tired of waiting for this guy's next move. Where are Simmons and Babcock?"

“They are already on it, Hutch.” Even though the Captain tried not to look worried he didn’t convince his boys.

Starsky looked over at Hutch, raising his eyebrows.” Simmons and Babcock ain’t us buddy, but they love ya too Cap, they will do their best.”

Dobey shook his head, ”I sure need this case wrapped up. Too many lives are at stake.”

The Captain had gone to make a phone call. As uneasy as they were, the boys were medicated enough that staying awake was difficult. Starsky had just about made up his mind that he would not let them give him any more pain killers until this was over. His life, and the lives of his friends, could depend on some clear-headed thinking.

Dobey returned with Simmons and Babcock in tow. "OK, tell them what you told me."

Simmons spoke up. "We got the guy to talk, sort of. He claims he does not know who paid him, it was all done with phone calls and dead drops."

Babcock stepped in, "But, we don't believe him. We have an idea, but we wanted to run it by you guys."

"Yeah. The guy wasn't hurt that bad, so we thought we would convince the DA to let him make bail."

Starsky was about to explode when Dobey saw the look on his face. "Calm down Starsky! They haven't done anything yet but I think it is a good idea, so hear them out!"

Babcock started again, "We want to put a tracker in his jacket and a tail on him. We think he will lead us right to the Baron, or at least a step closer. It is hard to find this guy, if for no other reason than no one knows what he looks like."

"Just one moment, my good man." Huggy had been quietly taking it all in until this point. "I know what he looks like."

Simmons and Babcock both dropped their jaws. "You know what he looks like and didn't say anything?!"

Huggy looked hurt, "Do I look like I have been in any condition to do that? Get a sketch artist in here and I will have him draw you a picture!"

While Huggy worked with the sketch artist, Dobey, Starsky, Simmons and Babcock talked about what their next move would be. Hutch, who was the most seriously injured of the three, had fallen asleep and they decided not to wake him.

Starsky was not convinced it was a good idea to let the guy they had their hands on out on bail. Babcock had just about gotten him convinced when Huggy got their attention. He showed them what the sketch artist had come up with and said, "This is the Baron!"

Now that they knew what he looked like, Starsky was finally convinced they had a good plan. He was not happy about being stuck in the hospital and not out there to catch this guy. Then he thought about it. The Baron could still come there and try to finish what he started. Starsky told Dobey he wanted his gun. Dobey did not think it was a good idea to have a gun in the possession of a man loopy from pain meds. When Starsky told him he had not taken any medication that day, and would not until the Baron was caught, he relented.

Of course, this is the time Hutch decided to wake up. Just in time to hear that Starsky was not taking his meds. While the partners argued about the merits of Starsky's idea, Simmons and Babcock slipped out to put their plan in motion. Dobey left to retrieve Starsky's gun, and to get something to eat. No one knew the Baron had a plan of his own that was already in motion.

The Baron stood across the street from the hospital, the glow of his favorite cigar breaking through the blanket of darkness. He stared at the hospital windows, knowing behind those glass walls was his prey; the men responsible for destroying his career and reputation. He shrugged a bit, remembering the stinging feel of the whip as it scourged his back, the pummelling of fists on his face… punishment from those who wanted him dead after he failed to deliver the diamonds.

It had been a week since his last attack on his prey. He had left town immediately, knowing the small black man could identify him. The fool he had hired to scare them had done his job quite well in the hospital, even if he’d been arrested. A bug the man was able to hide under the night stand let the Baron know all that was going on. He also had hired people within the hospital to keep him informed while he was out of town. 

The Baron was good at many things: stealing, deception, trickery. All traits needed in his line of work. But, he was best at waiting and being patient, lulling his prey into a false sense of security. 

And now, that patience was working to his advantage. There were no extra guards on duty with his prey and the Captain’s family had returned home. And, best of all, everyone would be leaving the hospital tomorrow, heading home to finish their recovery.

“Yes,” thought the Baron to himself. “Time for phase two. They’ve been hurt, now let them know what it’s like to be humiliated and scorned.” And, he turned and walked into the darkness, the glow of his cigar leading the way.

Simmons and Babcock caught up with the Captain in the cafeteria. He did not like the troubled looks on their faces. "Alright, men, just spit it out. What happened now?"

The partners looked at each other, and Dobey was reminded of the way Starsky and Hutch seemed to communicate without words. Finally, Simmons spoke up. "It is all wrong Captain. we never lost the guy. If he was not in someone's line of sight, the tracker was working perfectly".

Dobey shot to his feet, "Are you telling me you lost him!?"

"No, Captain," Babcock spoke very quietly.

"He's dead," Simmons spoke up quickly. "Captain, we have been talking and something is just not right. This guy knows what we are going to do before we do."

Babcock jumped in, "And the guy we were following was shot, we have to wait for ballistics to be sure, but the calibre looks to match Hutch's gun."

Simmons broke in, and Dobey was really starting to think these guys had been spending too much time with Starsky and Hutch, he felt like he was in a tennis match.

"Captain, we showed the Baron's picture to some folks we know have been working at the hospital for a long time. He has been here. He was dressed as a doctor, but at least three people have seen him. I think he has someone in the hospital in his pocket."

"Are you saying you think he is going to try something here?"

Babcock answered, "Actually, if he is getting information, he knows the guys are going to be released tomorrow. Can you think of a better time than the transition between the hospital and their homes for an attack?"

Dobey was quiet for a moment. This was a very troubling turn of events. He did not know who he could trust, and his boys' lives were at stake.

 “So, what are we going to do? Where is it safe?”

“If the Baron has people in his pockets here, where else!”

The three of them went back up to the hospital room to tell Starsky, Hutch and Huggy what they knew. When they walked in what they saw sickened them – Hutch and Huggy tied up and gagged, a trail of blood from Starsky’s bed to the door and a note pinned on Hutch which read 'If you want Starsky back alive, give me my diamonds....'

All that could be uttered was,” Oh my God.” Hutch was franticly trying to get out of his bonds, Huggy was out cold.

As soon as the gag was removed Hutch screamed, “They took Starsk! He fought, but they hurt him, Cap, they hurt him bad!”

“Calm down, Hutch you are hurt too, calm down. We will find him, son. Simmons, get a Doctor in here, Huggy needs help too!”

As Huggy slowly recovered consciousness with the help of the medical staff, Dobey went back to the half that was left of his best team. He'd thought Hutch would fight tooth and nail to help find his partner, instead he looked detached, eyes lost on the wall as if he were having a private conversation with himself.

"Are you okay, Hutchinson?" he asked in concern, gauging the blond man. "Did they hurt you too?"

"No, I... I was asleep. Didn't have time to realize what was happening."

"Say, did you see their faces? Anything to help get to any of these gentlemen?"

"Afraid not, Captain."

Hutch was staring at him, eyes large, shaking 'no' with his head for a long while, then nodding at the nightstand, himself and then the door. Dobey took out a handkerchief, drying the sweat off his forehead. He knew he was going to regret it, but not even Simmons and Babcock's nor the armed guard's presence had stopped the Baron's crooks from getting into the hospital and his boys' room after all. 

He sighed. "Hutch, I was thinking, maybe you'd be better off at home. What do you think? You were due for release tomorrow anyway."

"Sure. Would you mind getting me the papers or whatever, Captain?"

Half an hour later, after he had duly escorted Hutch back to his place, a guard in front of the door, Dobey was driving back to the hospital. He was almost into Huggy's room when a nurse handed him the phone.

"Hello? Who's this?"

"It's me, Captain. Hutchinson."

"Hutch, I thought I'd been clear about you going back to sleep."

"Yeah, yeah. Look, I didn't trust my place or your car to speak before, but the bug, at least one of them, is under Huggy's nightstand."

"Understood. I'd figured something like that. That man's always a step ahead of us."

"Yeah." Hutch's voice was thinner, and suddenly something occurred to the Captain.

"Wait a moment. What do you mean you didn't trust your place? Aren't you home now?"

"Captain, if you think I'd be sitting here while Starsky's life is on the line... "

"You're barely out of the hospital, Hutch! I don't have to remind you the Baron might still want your hide as well."

"I got my ways. I'm gonna go look for my partner now. I'll call you in time. Take care."

"Hutchinson! Hutchinson!"

Too late.

********************************************************************************

As he drove the Torino – he had to have something of Starsky’s to feel like his partner was there, protecting his back – his mind raced wildly. “Talk to me, Starsk. Where are you?”

Starsky first became aware of the incredible pain in his head. It was making it very difficult to think, and he knew something was terribly wrong. When he tried to move, he realized more hurt than just his head. His belly and shoulders felt like they were on fire. He finally became aware enough to realize he was lying on a wood floor with his hands tied behind his back. He tried to look around to figure out where he was, but there was blood running into his eyes. He attempted to sit up and it became clear his ankles were tied too.

How do you get yourself into these things?

He was finally able to see well enough to determine he was alone in the room. He hoped that meant Hutch was still safe and sound at the hospital. It was a small room with very little furniture in it; just a wooden table with a couple of chairs and what appeared to be a small kitchenette in the other corner. He heard someone coming to the door and made a split-second decision to pretend he was still out. He thought it was possible he could get some information that way.

Three men came in and he could tell right away that one of them was "in charge". One of them prodded him, then walked away. He slit his eyes open just enough to get a look at the guys. He barely resisted reacting when he saw that one of the guys was actually the Baron. He recognized one of the others as the man he fought in the bathroom, was that actually a week ago? He didn't know the other guy. They were definitely not on the same page. He was surprised to hear these two guys arguing with the Baron. Seems taking prisoners is not what they signed up for. He got confirmation that they did not have Hutch when the Baron told the other two this was the best way to get his partner to give up the diamonds. Knowing Hutch was safe, for now, gave him more options. Now to just figure out how to get out of this.

 As his mind wandered Hutch heard,” Zebra 3 there is a message from Captain Dobey”

”Go ahead Cap”

”Hutch...we just got information delivered in an envelope-and a picture of a very beaten up Starsky.”

Hutch was quiet for a heartbeat, then, “Oh God.”

“Hutch, I want you to come back to the station, you are in no shape to be out there driving and especially alone. Please,” Dobey pleaded with him. 

Hutch was already thinking of a plan. If he could get back to the station, get into the property room without being noticed and get the diamonds Starsky would be safe, if he was still alive.

“Please hang on buddy” Hutch prayed.

********************************************************************************

Starsky woke again, this time to even more pain. He would not have thought it possible. He was now tied to one of the chairs. He was confused when they just started beating him and never asked him anything. Then he heard them talking during a break when they thought he was out. The baron's plan was to convince Hutch the only way to save his partner was to trade him for the diamonds. Only thing is, he had no intention to actually trade. The real plan was to kill both of them once he had the diamonds, and then make plans to kill Huggy and Dobey before he left town. They had taken a picture of him and left. He could guess what that was about.

He was thankful for one thing though. The Baron may have been an accomplished, professional thief, but he knew nothing about the more violent side of the business. He had seriously underestimated the lengths the partners would go to in order to protect each other.

First things first, he could not protect his partner tied to this chair. As much as it hurt, he gave a good shake, discovering that he was in a very old, fragile, chair.

OK, Starsky, this is gonna hurt, but here goes.

He jumped as best he could and attempted to land on a corner of the chair. He was lucky, it worked on the first try and the chair splintered. He took a minute to catch his breath, and then breathe through the pain. This was not going to be easy. He was able to work his way out of the ropes tying him. Now, if his luck held, the goons would be gone and he could just walk, or limp, out of here.

He carefully made his way to the door and looked out; goodness, these guys did not know what they were doing. It was clear! He simply walked out – he guessed they had gone to make arrangements for the trade. He had to get a message to Hutch, but how?

Just then he saw, of all things, a patrol car driving up the street. Could it be that easy? He stepped out, and nearly got hit for his trouble. The cops in the car were startled, to put it mildly, to see this crazy-looking, blood-covered man step out in front of their car. It took a second for one of them to realize who they were looking at.

"Hey, that's Detective Starsky!"

They were about to call an ambulance when Starsky stopped them. He got in the car and told them to head for the station. Then he told them to get a patch through to Dobey, but not to mention his name. The Captain was not happy about being pulled away from trying to find his boys. His irritation showed through plainly in his voice. "What do you want, and it better be good!?"

Starsky got on the radio, "Cap, where's my partner?"

“Starsky...is that really you? Where are you, son? How bad are you hurt?”

Starsky felt himself slipping into darkness.

”Hutch, you gotta find Hutch before the Baron gets him.” 

Dobey yelled into the radio,” Starsky! Starsky! Who is with him?”

“It’s Andrews sir. He's out cold and looks like he is all busted up!”

“Get him back to the hospital. I'll get a message to Hutchinson.”

They sped off all the while Starsky was mumbling,” Hutch. Gotta find Hutch.”

Dobey arrived at the hospital and found Huggy in the waiting room. "What are you doing here?"

"Captain, you know that I know more than just three cops, right? Andrews called me after he got Curly here. Did you find the other half of the duo?"

"No, he is not answering his radio. I have Minnie back at the station still trying, she knows to reach me here if she gets him. How is Starsky?"

"I don't know Captain, he is still in surgery. We had better know where Blondie is before he wakes up though."

Back at the station, Minnie was still trying to raise Hutch on the radio. Hutch was sitting in the parking lot trying to figure out how he was going to get past Bigelow. He had come to the conclusion that he was going to need help. He figured his best bet was Minnie, she was always willing to help him and Starsky. He had to figure out how to get her help, without her finding out exactly what he wanted to do. He turned on the radio which he had turned off earlier because Dobey kept trying to get him to come in, and heard Minnie calling him.

Well, he thought that was probably for Dobey, but since he was going to enlist her in his scheme anyway, he answered her.

"Zebra 3 here."

Minnie was excited to finally get an answer. "Hutch, you need to get to the hospital right away, they found him!"

Neither one of them needed her to say who "him" was. His plans forgotten, Hutch stuck the light on the roof, hit the siren, and zoomed off. Dobey was still on the phone with Minnie when Hutch came running in.

"Where is my partner?"

Dobey and Huggy got him to sit down, before he fell down, and filled him in on what they had. Neither of them had seen the doctor yet, and Starsky had been in no condition to fill Andrews in, so they didn't have much. Dobey nodded his head to the nurse at the desk and she scurried off. Next thing, a doctor was standing in front of them waiting to check Hutch out.

"What's going on Captain? I'm not the one we need to be worried about here."

"Hutchinson, your partner is being taken care of. You left the hospital a day early, and did NOT go home and rest like you were supposed to. While we are waiting for word, you WILL allow this doctor to check you out."

"But Captain... "

"No Hutch, you are going to do what I say son. I know you worry about him, and he worries about you, but I worry about both of you. Now, go!"

As Hutch reluctantly went with the doctor, Dobey and Huggy started discussing what their next move would be. Dobey told Huggy he had checked with Bigelow about the diamonds. He had no intention of giving them to the Baron, but he wanted to know where they were. Turns out, they were not even in the possession of the legal system any more. Without the Baron to prosecute, they had taken pictures and appraisals of the diamonds and returned them to the rightful owner. They were not even in the country any more.

"Oh man," said Huggy. "This is not getting any easier. At least we know where the guys are, and they are safe. We have got to figure out how to end this. “

While Hutch was being examined the Doctor came out and told Dobey and Huggy about Starsky’s condition, which was not good. The laceration on his liver had opened back up, his left kidney was swollen and bruised, 4 broken ribs, his spleen was ruptured, which they removed, and a concussion along with various cuts. Dr. Franklin told them it was touch and go for the next 24-48 hours.

“Where is Detective Hutchinson?” he asked. “I am sure he will want to be with him. He will have full access, of course.”

Dobey told him he was also being examined right now.

Huggy looked at Captain Dobey and said, “You know, Hutch is going to blame himself for Starsky’s condition, not being able to protect him and all.”

Hutch came out of the exam room, looked at both of them and said,” I should have been there, should have had my partner’s back.”

“You were not exactly able to do that, son, now let’s go see Starsky.” Captain Dobey took his arm and led him to Starsky’s room. 

The room was dark and quiet except for the hum of all the machines keeping the life force flowing through Starsky. Hutch took a seat and grabbed his partner’s hand, brought it up to his forehead, closed his eyes and prayed to a God he wasn’t sure he believed in any more. 

 

Dobey and Huggy slipped out of the room. Huggy looked at Dobey and said, “If Curly dies you won’t have to be afraid of the Baron killing Hutch. It’s Me and Thee to the bitter end.”

Dobey just sighed,” Yeah”. 

 

At the end of the hall stood a tall, dark man in a Lab coat, a stethoscope around his neck and a clipboard in his hands with a sneer on his lips.

Waiting.

**************************************************************************************************

The blue eyes opened slowly, their owner hesitant to get back to the world of the living. Hutch was still there, still praying, as he'd been for a good part of the night. His middle and shoulder hurt like hell, but he'd refused anyone's attempt to get him out of there and no one had been bold enough to try and persuade him. They'd gotten to Starsky once, he'd be damned if he let that happen again under his watch.

"Starsky? Hey, buddy."

Starsky reacted, a small smile that meant a whole lot more than it looked. Suddenly he focused on Hutch more attentively. "You're here," he whispered.

"Shh, buddy, don't talk. Yeah, I'm here. Had to back my partner up."

He smiled back as the hand in his squeezed lightly, and returned it
.
"You okay?"

"Yeah. And I want you to go back to resting. Dobey's half out of his head, says he needs us back on the streets."

Starsky huffed an attempt at a laughter, wincing immediately.

"Hey, what did I tell you? Enough for now." Hutch brushed those big curls back from his friend's forehead, watching him close his eyes in relief. "Later. I'll be right here."

Starsky nodded, already slipping under again. Hutch nodded too, emotions having the best of him as he realized how vulnerable both of them were this time, together, Starsky just this side of alive and him so weak, hurting, hardly able to take care of his partner.

A sound brought him back to the present and he stiffened as the door opened behind him, senses spiking at the sudden surge of adrenaline invading his system. With the tip of his fingers, he touched under his shirt, making sure Starsky's backup gun he'd taken from the glove box of the Torino was still there.

Light steps, quick breathing, the cap being taken off a syringe – he knew full well what that one sounded like.

He stood up and turned in a single move, grabbing the chair and swinging it around with the momentum. It hit the mark Hutch realized, when he heard the pained grunt and the syringe falling to the floor. He took advantage of the moment to take out the gun and point it straight to the man's face; which suddenly looked familiar. This was the one who'd shot him twice at his place.

"Hands in the air!"

The man obeyed, but didn't stop looking around at a possible way to free himself. "He's gonna come for you anyway."

"More like I'm coming for him, and you're gonna help me if you want to keep your teeth."

"You can't do that! You're a cop!"

"Captain!" he called, but nobody came.

Hutch felt his strength ebbing away as if the cork had been pulled off of him. If things didn't play out soon, the tables would be turned very quickly. With a huge effort, he shoved the man against the wall, a quick one-handed search revealing his own Colt. Gritting his teeth, he went back to the interrogation, eyes fast on the man in front of him, hiding nothing of his anger.

"Now you're gonna tell me where I can find your boss. Do I look like I'm kidding?"

Ten minutes later, Hutch came out of Starsky's room, the would-be killer in tow. Dobey was just out of the elevator, the two uniformed cops with him immediately cuffing the man.

"Hutch, what the hell's going on?"

"I know where he is, Captain. I know where the Baron is hiding." And with that, he folded into Dobey's arms.

 Huggy returned from the cafeteria with coffee for the three of them just in time to watch the Captain catch his blond friend. "Captain, what happened now?"

When Dobey filled him in, Huggy got confused. "So, we have the Baron? Its over?"

"No, we don't have the Baron," said Dobey, irritably. "Were you even paying attention? We got one of the guys working for him. The one that shot Hutch when this whole thing started."

Just then, the doctor that had examined Hutch found them. "Captain, I need your help. You are Detective Hutchinson's supervisor, correct?" Getting a nod, he continued, "You have got to help me. Did he tell you what I said when I examined him?"

The captain was getting frustrated, "Just spit it out doctor, what is going on with my detective?"

The doctor sighed, "I looked at his chart before I examined here. He left this hospital with the understanding he would rest. He did not do this."

By this time, they had gotten an unconscious Hutch onto a gurney.

"Now I see he has aggravated his wounds, again. He is seriously injured Captain. I am going to take him back to the ER to properly assess him. Then, I am sure, he will be admitted again. If he continues to aggravate his injuries, he could make matters worse."

The captain started to get a little worried. "What are you saying doctor? He was healing, it is why he was allowed to leave the first time. You don't understand what is happening. There is a man out there intent on killing them. Us too for that matter. Aggravating his injuries could be the only way he stays alive."
“Listen to me Captain," the doctor was very stern now. "What he is doing to himself could kill him. This is serious! I will make a suggestion. I will treat Detective Hutchinson now and admit him. I will speak with Dr. Franklin about moving Detective Starsky. We will make an isolation room available, large enough for the four of you, that way THEY can heal, and you can keep watch. These men are in very serious condition Captain."

 No sooner had the doctor turned away, there was an alarm and the doctor took off like he had been fired from a gun. They saw what seemed to be dozens of people running towards the room Hutch had been taken to, some of them dragging equipment. Dobey started to follow when Huggy grabbed him. "C'mon now Captain, you know you will only be in the way. Hutch is one of the strongest people I know, right up there with Starsky. He will be OK, he HAS to be."

Dobey did not look convinced. "Huggy, I simply don't know how much more those boys can take. This has been one of the hardest cases I have seen them deal with. Who am I kidding, I don't know how much more I can take!"

After what seemed like forever, but was only about 20 minutes, Hutch was wheeled out of the room, still unconscious. They did not even slow down long enough for the waiting men to ask a question. Once they were in the elevator Dobey noticed a nurse standing off to the side. "Dr. Sommers asked me to let you know what has happened. Detective Hutchinson crashed, his heart stopped. He had severe internal bleeding and the loss of blood put too much of a strain on his heart. We have given him enough blood to stabilize him for surgery. That is all we know right now."

As she walked away, Dobey and Huggy just looked at each other. Dobey finally said, "You go with Hutch. It will be harder for someone to get to him in surgery. I will stay with Starsky. We can't leave either of them alone until this is over. I will call the station and get Simmons, Babcock, and some carefully chosen officers here. This just became my base of operations."

As Huggy walked away, Captain Dobey looked over at Starsky and thought, “How am I going to tell him about his partner, his other half?” He walked over to the phone and called the station. 
What seemed like an eternity later the doctor and Huggy walked into the room. He proceeded to tell him that Hutch was doing okay but he could not take any more trauma. He was worried about Starsky because he had not regained consciousness yet.

True to his word, Dr. Sommers transferred Starsky to an isolation ward. As soon as Hutch was out of recovery, he was placed in the same room. There were four extra beds in the room, for Dobey, Huggy, and anyone else the captain deemed necessary. The Captain had been busy too. The little room leading into the ward used for changing into the protective gown, mask, and gloves was transformed into an office where two uniformed officers were seated at a desk. Their sole job was to verify every person that went into the ward. No doctor, nurse, orderly, or cop would be allowed past them unless they were verified. Dobey wanted two men at that desk so there would always be someone there, in case one had to step away for a moment. He had long since called Edith and sent her and the kids back to her sister's. The Baron was getting desperate and he did not want to take any chances. Simmons and Babcock had been there, and sent off with instructions to find a lead, any lead, to get a bead on this guy. Dobey had talked to Minnie and she was going over the case file from their original run in with the Baron. Dobey was sure the answer was just within reach, and he was using every tool he had to find it.

He turned to look at the other occupants of the ward. Starsky and Hutch were still out, and he was getting worried that they had not awakened yet. Huggy had taken this opportunity to get some sleep too. He was still not fully recovered from his bout with poison and tired easily. The Captain was still astonished at how badly this had gone. He had come so close to losing his best team, and there was still a chance that could happen. He was thinking so hard he almost missed Starsky starting to move around. A soft moan caught his attention. He quickly moved to Starsky's side.

"Take it easy son, you are going to be OK." He could see Starsky was trying to say something so leaned in close to hear him. He almost let out a chuckle when he heard Starsky very softly say one word, “Hutch”.

"I should have known that would be your first worry. Hutch had to have surgery again, but he is going to be just fine. He is right next to you here in a bed. You just rest now." With that, Starsky went back to sleep. Dobey turned and saw Huggy sitting up and looking at him. "Well, it is about time Curly joined us, now for the other half to wake up. I will go get the doctor."

Dr. Sommers came into the room just as Hutch was trying to say something. Huggy was at his side as Hutch uttered just one word,” Starsk.” Starsky heard him and said,” I’m here Blondie.”

Dobey and Huggy shook their heads and Captain Dobey said, “Two bodies share one soul... they cannot survive without each other... God help us finish this case.”

Things started happening pretty quickly now. Minnie had come to the hospital with her findings. She also wanted to see her favorite detective team herself. She got in rather quickly since she was expected and well known. When she got in, she found that Simmons and Babcock were already there. The boys were still very weak and unable to leave their beds but they were awake and mostly alert, so they gathered around the beds to discuss the progress of the case. All concerned kept a watchful eye on the boys. Dr. Franklin and Dr. Sommers had both made it very clear that their patients would get enough rest to heal or they would clear the room and no one would see them. Starsky found it very difficult to move at all without extreme pain. They were never sure how alert he was because he kept his eyes mostly closed. Any bit of light caused him pain. Hutch was a little better off than his partner, but not much. He was still trying to convince Huggy and Dobey to let him sit beside Starsky. Not wanting to incur the doctors' wrath, they held firm. They did move the beds close enough for the boys to reach out to each other without strain.

Hutch had told Dobey where the baron was holed up, according to the goon he had captured. Simmons and Babcock had checked it out. They found evidence of someone's presence, but no Baron. They had four teams of officers watching the place while they figured their next move. Minnie had gone through every witness interview from the original case. She had figured out how he had avoided capture for so long. According to witnesses, the Baron was seen many times during that day. Every time he appeared he looked like he belonged. A bartender, doctor, and, if Minnie was right, a cop. She figured the only way he got away would have been dressed as a cop.

Just then, there was a commotion at the entrance to the room. Dobey, Simmons, Babcock, and Minnie all started in that direction pulling their weapons. Huggy stayed with the partners, wondering if it could possibly be that easy. Could it be the Baron? Dobey and company found an officer face down on the floor, being held by the two officers in the outer office. Without taking his eyes off his suspect, one officer informed his boss that the man they were covering said he was there to relieve them, but was not cleared and they could not identify him. Dobey instructed them to cuff him and roll him over, he wanted a good look. He could not believe what he was looking at. It was the Baron! They finally had him. Simmons and Babcock took charge of the man and left with him to begin processing. Dobey went back to let his boys know it was finally over.

Two months later, all four met at Huggy’s for a celebration dinner. Hutch, the most seriously injured of them had just been released from medical watch and given permission to return to work. Light duty at first, no running around the streets.

 
“Maybe now you two will finally get all those reports corrected and caught up!” Dobey grumbled playfully over a glass of beer. “And,” he said looking at Starsky, “No colorful descriptions! Just the facts, plain and simple.”

“Aw, but Cap!” Starsky whined, “It makes ‘em so much more interesting. Almost like them cop shows ya see on TV.”

“Hey, Starsk,” Huggy said, motioning Diana to bring another round of drinks, all non-alcoholic in deference to Hutch. “Don’t forget to add the trusty sidekick in your report. Ya know ya gotta have the sidekick.”

Dobey grunted under his breath, realizing this was a battle he wasn't going to win.

Hutch sat back, watching the banter between his friends and feeling very lucky they had all survived the ordeal. The Baron's trial was coming up in a few months. He had hired some sneaky lawyers and had managed to keep things still tangled – even from prison. But, the case was strong and a conviction looked promising.

Just then Simmons, Babcock, and Minnie entered The Pits to join in the celebration. Huggy cleared a corner and moved some tables so everyone could sit together. Looking across the table, Hutch shared a quiet look with Starsky who shared the same look with him. Friends and family, family and friends and Me and Thee they said to each other without speaking – blessing all the way around.

But outside, across from The Pits, was the glow of a cigar piercing the dark blanket of night.