The case was solved, they'd gambled away some money and made a new friend. Starsky, in particular, had paid attention to the young dancer Vicky. When the detectives found out that she had a disabled daughter who badly needed surgery, they decided to help her with the money they had won.

"Come on, pal, I'm ready to leave," and Starsky took his bag, looked around the luxurious hotel room for a last time, sighed and let his partner go through the door first. In contrast to their arrival, they didn't need to pretend to be somebody else and so they were wearing casual clothing.

It had been an exciting week in Las Vegas. Finally they had found the strangler who had murdered young women. One of the suspects had been Jack Mitchell, an old friend of Hutch's, and though Hutch couldn't believe that he was the murderer, they had to chase him because he was arousing suspicion. He had died during the fight and when they found out that he had a tumor in his head and that he had nothing to do with the murder, Hutch felt guilty.

Now they needed some distraction.

Driving through the streets of Las Vegas in daylight was a little different than at night, when all the glimmering lights suggested that life was always beautiful.

"Look over there," and Hutch pointed to a bus station where a young girl was sitting, seemingly waiting for nothing. She was drinking from a bottle hidden in a brown paperbag. "A lost life," Hutch mumbled and Starsky couldn't say anything.

"Hey, have you got the map, so that we can find where Vicky lives?" Starsky was looking forward to visiting the gorgeous woman and he noticed Hutch fumbling in the glove compartment for the map. Hutch delved and soon found out where the little place was and how they would get there.

"We can turn right here, though it is faster through Death Valley," Hutch mumbled.

"What -- did you say Death Valley?" Starsky was all excited. "Then let's drive through it! I've always wanted to see it!"

"It's very hot there," Hutch tried to dampen Starsky's joy, but there was nothing to keep Starsky from going there.

"Look, we've got enough time and we need a little sightseeing. Show me the way, oh you all-knowing partner of mine," Starsky joked and Hutch gave in.

Soon they had left the road and noticed with astonishment the changing of the countryside. No plants and trees but hard sun-dried ground. Hutch pulled down one window and blistering heat entered the car.

"Wow, that's what I call heat!" Starsky was impressed.

Hutch, who was studying the map again, was suddenly pushed against Starsky when the car abruptly turned right.

"What the hell are you doing?" Hutch tried to remove the map from Starsky's face and saw the mischievous smile there.

"You won't believe it, but I just saw a sign, "Old copper mine." Let's have a look. When I was a child, me and my friends in New York were always dreaming of exploring an old mine, so now we gotta chance to see one."

Hutch remained speechless. They followed the path narrowed by rocks on both sides. In front of them they saw bigger rocks and there was a sign with further information. They got out of their car.

The heat was incredible. Soon both men were sweating profusely.

"Let's go into the shade over there," Starsky proposed and was already walking to the little cave, while Hutch paid attention to the sign.

"This is the entrance to the mine!" Starsky shouted and disappeared into the cave.

"Wait!" Hutch shouted and hurried over to the spot where his friend had just been. It was very dark in the cave and somewhere on the left there should be a small path. Hutch had to adjust his eyes to the darkness.

"Starsk, where are you?" Hutch's voice sounded hollow, he wondered where his friend had disappeared to.

"I'm here, it's wonderful, the walls are sparkling, I can't describe it, you must see it!" Starsky's voice reached him from inside the mine.

"Don't go further. It's dangerous to enter the mine. Rocks can fall down, or you can get lost."

Hutch's concern grew when he didn't hear Starsky answer. He called several times for his friend, but it was in vain. What should he do?

He felt his way around the next corner, walked straight on till he came to a parting of the ways. Where to go? He called Starsky's name again -- nothing. He had to find his friend. Was there a little more light to the left? Hutch turned in that direction, stopped for a moment.

"Starsk, are you there? Give me a sign, say something, what's happening?" Hutch couldn't hide his fear any longer. He followed the path when his feet suddenly lost ground and he fell. He gave a short yelp -- and landed on something soft. Stunned he felt around and could sense the material of jeans. "Buddy, is it you?" he whispered , moved to the side and reached further till his hand touched curls. Starsky!

"Fancy meeting you here," Hutch muttered. Starsky appeared to be unconscious. Hutch pulled his partner onto his lap and checked for any head injuries. He felt the lump on Starsky's forehead at the same time Starsky stirred and moaned.

"Feeling pain, buddy? Then you're still alive," Hutch said encouragingly, scanning the surroundings. The ground of the path had subsided but it shouldn't be too difficult to climb back where they had come from.

What to do with Starsky? He had to wake him, by hook or by crook.

"Wake up, schweetheart." Hutch imitated Starsy's voice, "help me, Something's scaring me..." The trick worked. Indeed, Starsky opened his eyes half way and asked: "Whassa matter?"

"I heard some strange noises inside the mine and I want you to help me find out what's wrong there." Starsky's consciousness came back and cop mode set in.

"I'll help you, don't worry. Let's go look for it," Starsky said and tried to sit up.

Hutch had to chuckle. His friend never thought of himself, always cared for his partner...

"Take it easy. First we have to climb out of this," Hutch pointed to the path above them.

"Be careful. Before I fell I was hit very hard," and Starsky put his hand to his head. Hutch nodded. "I know. Stay here. I'll climb out and help you then. Okay?"

Hutch steadied his partner putting his arms around him. Then they got up very slowly. Hutch's realized that his right foot was aching but he had other problems to solve now.

Starsky was swaying lightly, so Hutch leant Starsky against a wall. Both men took a breath, then Hutch loosened his grip.

"Just a moment, then I'll help you out," Hutch reassured his friend and with a pat on his stomach he started to climb the wall.

With some effort he reached the old path, looked down and said: "Come here, give me your hands. I'll pull you up. I can see now what hurt you. There's an iron rod coming out of the wall. Maybe an old cross beam..."

Starsky was moving toward the wall. Fortunately it wasn't too steep, so he could climb out of the cavity with Hutch's help.

"Boy, am I glad to be with you again," Starsky mumbled and leaned into Hutch. But suddenly he stiffened. "Which is the right way out?" He looked around, his gaze full of fear. He could see several paths leading in different directions. "Where to go?"

Hutch tried to remember very hard where he had come from while searching for his friend. Somewhere he had turned left, but where was the corner he remembered?

Now it all looked very strange, he could have come from the right side, too...

"We're lost, right?" Starsky's voice sounded a little strained. In the darkness it was difficult to see Hutch's face. Starsky only felt Hutch's calming squeeze on his shirt. Starsky knew that he had to be strong for his partner who had been looking for him and had saved him. He had been such an idiot to go into the mine. He had brought them both into trouble. Shit! And hadn't Hutch mentioned strange noises in the mine? He had to help his partner, no question.

"We have to find out about the noise you heard," Starsky said with determination. "Where did you hear it?"

"Wha...?" Hutch was preoccupied. Noises? Oh my god, what should he say? Maybe the truth, that he had come up with it to wake Starsky up?

"Buddy..." he started when Starsky interrupted him. "Shhhhh, there it was again. Now I can hear it, too." Both were listening now.

Far in the distance there were sounds, Hutch couldn't believe it. Automatically they turned in that direction. It was still very dark, and Starsky held on to Hutch's belt. They were lost but they were together. Together they had managed a lot in their lives. The hard times when Hutch was left by Vanessa, his ex wife. When Terry had died and he was about to give up. Who had pulled him back to real life? Hu...

"Oops!" Starsky bumped into Hutch who had stopped suddenly.

"Now I can hear it. Those are voices," Hutch listened very intensly. "Sounds like a group of kids."

"Do you think that's the exit?" Starsky asked hopefully. He had totally forgotten his aching head. He only wanted to leave this unpleasant place. They moved further and when they came to the next fork they knew which way to use. It was getting brighter.

Soon they could differentiate the voices. There was a teacher with kids who were answering questions.

"I told you already, there aren't any ghosts in this old mine, you needn't worry..."

At that moment Starsky and Hutch tottered round the corner, both covered with dust and the blood from Starsky's forehead.

"Ewwwwwww!" Twenty small children screamed and ran, leaving their stunned teacher behind.

"And I always thought kids had a soft spot for you," Starsky grinned and Hutch answered: "The same to you."

Looking at each other they had to admit that their appearance was not trust-inspiring.

"May I help you, gentlemen?" the teacher offered. "No thanks, you should try and capture your kids again," Hutch smiled. He put his arm round Starsky's waist and both men hobbled to their car.

Two hours later two exhausted detectives arrived at Vicky's home. It was dark already and when she opened the door she was frightened -- before she recognized her friends from Las Vegas.

"Come in, you two, how was the trip? Wait -- what's wrong with you?" She pampered Starsky, cleaned the wound, gave them both something to drink and step by step, Starsky felt better.

"Vicky, you won't believe it! We drove through Death Valley and explored an old copper mine. It was wonderful! The walls were sparkly and there were so many paths..."

"And then, buddy?" Hutch dared to ask.

"What do you mean, Hutch? As I said, it was wonderful. And then there were little kids with their teacher and they were so impressed when they saw us. You know, not everybody would be so brave as to..."

Hutch got up, rummaged in his bag and handed Starsky a big envelope. "You should come to the big point, pal." Starsky looked at his partner , became serious and held out the envelope to Vicky who at first didn't understand. When she opened it, saw the money and looked into two pairs of blue eyes, she knew all of a sudden what a special gift the detectives had given her.

Starsky, who couldn't bear any soapy scenes, disappeared to check on his car. Hutch explained to Vicky what had happened in Death Valley that afternoon.

"Well," he finished. It's right, we got lost -- almost. But we found you and it's a great pleasure to help your kid. By the way, where is she? You must know, children have a soft spot for us... normally!" And they both laughed, till Starsky came into the room and shared the laughter with them.



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