Piece of cake
Artwork by Anja


Vanessa had made her choice. She took a last glance at her sleeping husband, unable to hide her admiration for his lean body, blond hair and fine features that now seemed so relaxed in his sleep. Why did it all go wrong? She wanted to understand. They had loved each other, had promised to stay together and now her suitcase was packed. Oh well, she knew what it was about.

When they met she was sure the tall blond guy she had fallen in love with would introduce her to the upper class. He had just started his medical studies, his father was a well known lawyer and she hoped to be accepted by the wealthy families of Duluth, Minnesota. One day her Ken would become a famous doctor and she could represent him in society...

Ken stirred in his sleep and Van was brought back to reality. Her smile faded and anger surged. It was all Starsky's fault! Okay, Ken had decided to stop with his medical studies -- to become a cop! They had had endless arguments about his decision, but she had never given up the hope that she could bring him to terms.

Why had this underdog from New York shown up, exerting such a bad influence over her Ken? Starsky! Alone the name couldn't mean anything good! He wanted to become a cop, come hell or high water. Somehow he had invaded Ken's private sphere, had even started to call him "Hutch". Ridiculous! She couldn't stand him, especially when he was laughing and joking with her husband. Had she been jealous when she realized the strong bond that had grown between the two men?

Anyway, when they had finished the academy and were sent to different stations, there had been hope for Van. Out of sight out of mind, that was her chance to convince Ken of quitting his dangerous job and forgetting that weird insane loudmouth from New York. Ken had to return where he belonged to -- as a doctor he would find his place in the right ambience.

Van sighed and retreated to the door. It had been all in vain. Quite to the contrary Ken had just requested to be partnered with Starsky. Van had lost her influence on her husband; she couldn't stand it any longer.

Quietly she left the room, took her suitcase and left the apartment. Later Ken would find the note wherein she told him about the divorce. Now she had to plan her future... The guy who worked alongside her wasn't too bad either. She had heard that he had inherited a great deal of money recently... Maybe he could offer her the life she was longing for.

David Michael Starsky was swaggering along the hall, whistling a little tune. Today it would be decided if he was partnered with Ken Hutchinson, his best friend. He was announced to Lieutenant Parker who had all the papers and documents that were necessary.

"Come in. Well, you are David Michael..." the man was rifling through the folders and seemed to be relieved when he finally found the right one.

"Here we go," He put on his glasses and said: "You are partnered with Sergeant Thomas Lowell, congratulations!"

"Pardon?" Starsky could only stare. Had he heard right? His request being partnered with Hutch was rejected? He sat down on a nearby chair and had to take a breath. The disappointment was so immense, he had to choke.

"If there aren't any questions left..." The man on the other side of the desk was looking at Starsky and motioned him to leave.

"Sir," Starsky cleared his throat, "I wanted to be partnered with a certain Kenneth Hutchinson, can you check it again, please?"

"Here it says," the man put on his glasses again, "that David Michael is partnered with Sergeant Thomas Lowell, as I said."

Starsky jumped up. "Sir, I am David Michael Starsky, S-T-A-R-S-K-Y."

Now the Lieutenant looked irritated. "Can you prove your identity?"

"Sure." After Starsky had shown his ID, it was only a matter of minutes to find out that indeed Starsky was partnered with the man he had come to appreciate as his best friend.

The swagger was back when he strolled along the hall. He had to tell Hutch the good news.

It was Hutch's free day and Starsky decided to drive over to his friend's place. If he was lucky Van had already left for work. He had never become familiar with Hutch's wife. She was a cold, unfeeling person, just the opposite to Hutch.

Hutch's car, an old Chevy, was standing in the parking lot and Starsky hurried up the stairs. Impatiently he waited for the door to be opened. When it took too long he let himself in with the spare key on the doorframe. Hutch was standing against the sink in the kitchen, probably preparing one of his health drinks. Starsky chuckled as an idea formed in his head.

"Buddy, I have to tell you something." He tried to sound serious "Our request for being partnered was refused..." Expectantly he waited for Hutch's reaction.

When Hutch turned around Starsky was affected by his friend's stricken appearance. He looked miserable, a sadness on his face that Starsky had only seen before when Hutch had fought with Vanessa.

"No partners then..." Hutch's voice was very quiet; it seemed that he had lost all self confidence.

"No, it was only a joke, but the Lieutenant really wanted to partner me with another guy. I can tell you that was a little shock at first."

Starsky was standing in front of his friend now. "What's wrong, buddy? Look, Van has already gone to work, no time for arguments, it's only you and me. Let's..."

"She's left. She wants a divorce." Hutch's voice sounded despondent.

"Can't believe it," Starsky mumbled though he couldn't feel very sorry. That bitch Van had caused so much trouble so far, it would be the best for Hutch if it came to an end. But Starsky couldn't tell that to his best friend. Obviously Hutch was suffering from her leaving.

"What can I do for you? Let's sit down and talk it over." And Starsky led his friend over to the couch. Hutch slumped onto it and covered his eyes, grown red with emotion and creeping fatigue. "You want something to drink? A tea?" Hutch nodded and Starsky went to the little kitchen to put the kettle on.

He was looking out of the window, saw the cars passing by, watched some children playing hide and seek. And the sun was shining. What a day! Could have been a wonderful one with the great news. Working as partners, it had been their goal, and now Hutch was abandoned by his wife and had to cope with it.

"Here we go," and Starsky put two mugs on the coffee table in front of them. He sat down next to Hutch and sipped from his tea. After a while of silence Hutch put down his hands, gripped the mug and drank the tea.

"Feeling a little better?" Starsky wanted to know and Hutch smiled tentatively.

"Thanks for being here," he said and continued, "You know, when I woke up, I saw her note. I couldn't believe it at first. Then I checked her closet and saw that her suitcase was missing. She's really left me, Starsky. Was it my fault that our marriage failed? Sure, we had arguments..." Hutch's voice trailed off.

"Yeah, arguments about your job!" Starsky underlined. "She never allowed you to have a career as a cop. Once she told me she was sure that you'd go back to Minnesota to become a doctor. She was gloating over the victory. She couldn't stand me, and honestly said, it was the same with me. It was as if she begrudged us our... friendship."

Hutch looked at his friend. "Maybe you're right. I remember one evening when I got home late after a stake out that she accused me of spending all my time with you. She didn't know anything about my job and wasn't interested in it. She ran you down and I was getting pissed. I told her nobody should mess with my friend. That enraged her even more and I think it was the first night I ended up sleeping on the couch.

Starsky couldn't avoid a little smile. He nudged his partner with his elbow and noticed that Hutch relaxed a bit.

"Well, maybe you should take it easy, pal. At least we're partners from now on. Imagine, Starsky and Hutch against all the evil in the world. Our appearance will make all the scum vanish into thin air. We'll be invincible and...!" Hutch couldn't hide his smile any longer. He put his hand over Starsky's mouth to hush him.

"You really know how to cheer someone up, you know that?" he said. Starsky stopped and locked glances with his friend. Hutch saw the affection for him in Starsky's face. Never before he had met a person that had cared for him the way Starsky did. Even now despite being abandoned by his wife, Hutch was already feeling better with his friend by his side. Hutch leaned back into the cushions and Starsky relaxed with him. Both men followed their own thoughts. It was a familiar silence. Starsky marvelled there were times like now when they didn't need any words to understand each other and to know what the other was thinking.

"You know..." both men started to talk at the same time, laughed and Hutch motioned Starsky to go on.

"What do you think about introducing ourselves to our new captain? I think his name is Dobey. Rumors say he's rough."

"Good idea," Hutch said. "But there's one thing that's bothering me. Vanessa said in her note that she's going to take some more of her belongings out of our apartment this evening. I really don't want to see her, so I'd like to ask..."

"...If you can stay with me for tonight? Only if you keep your health ingredients far away from me," Starsky joked.

"Whatever you want."

"Then come on," and Starsky pulled his friend up. Hutch disappeared in the bathroom to wash up while Starsky had a look at Hutch's closet to pack some clothes for his friend. Who knew how long Van's moving would take... Starsky was about to leave the room when he saw Hutch's guitar. He took it with him and later when Hutch joined him, Starsky saw his astonishment followed by a small grin. It was going to be better.

Two weeks later...

"Starsky and Hutchinson! Into my office!" Starsky still jerked when he heard the sudden hollering of their new captain. He jumped up, noticed that Hutch reacted more calmly and tried to slow down, too. They entered the office and kept standing near the door to wait for further instructions.

"Sit down!" ordered Dobey and pointed to the two chairs in front of his desk.

Two pairs of blue eyes looked expectantly at the superior.

"You've been partners for two weeks now and you did a good job as I was told. Now I need you for a special case. It'll be your first one and it's a little delicate because you'll be on your own for a certain time. Therefore I have chosen you. I've heard that you are friends, is that right?" Both men nodded, waiting impatiently for more information.

"What is this case about, captain?" Hutch wanted to know.

"There is a community outside town that lives after their own rules. They are independent from other communities, grow their own corn and sell it. They promise young people in trouble to help them and show them another way of life. "

"That doesn't sound so bad," Starsky had to admit, but Dobey shook his head and went on.

"In the last few months seven young people from this community, by the way it is called 'We Are Happy Forever' were found dead in different places. First we thought it was suicide, but meanwhile we suspect the leaders of the group have something to do with it. So far we can't prove anything. I'm quite sure that something mysterious is going on there."

Starsky and Hutch looked at each other. Before they could give any comments, Dobey finished: "We need two people to go undercover into this community. I think you could do an exceptional job. You trust each other and can watch each other's backs. You only have to observe what's going on there and if there are any problems that could cause suicides or something worse -- like murder."

Dobey looked at the young cops. Starsky was well experienced in fighting and defending himself -- the rough kid from New York. He had lost his father in a shooting when he was a boy. Since then he had wanted to become a cop -- like his father. On the other side was Ken Hutchinson, a well educated boy from a wealthy family in Duluth, Minnesota. Dobey had studied the personnel files of both men. He got the impression they complemented each other, and that could help them with the undercover job.

"Does that mean we have to live in this community?" Starsky's anticipation was fading already.

"Of course, and we have to give you a new identity. One where you've both been in trouble. I was thinking of you having stolen cars," Dobey pointed at Starsky, "and you, Hutchinson, could be the guy who was disappointed by life generally speaking. So you are looking for an alternative lifestyle."

Starsky exchanged quick glances with his partner. Could Dobey know already about the upcoming divorce with Van? It didn't make any difference to them. This was their first case!

"Okay, that's it for now. Get your stuff together and get out of here," Dobey said.

Both men stood up and thoughtfully left the office.

"Wow! Our first case -- going undercover! I never imagined that it could be this special," Starsky admitted. "Let's grab something to eat; I'm always starving when I'm excited."

"Okay," Hutch said distracted. When they were munching on their lunch in a small Mexican diner tucked down the street, Hutch grabbed a taste of Starsky's burrito before refocusing on their upcoming assignment.

"I'm not sure about it. We should contact Huggy. He has helped me several times with information from the streets. We have to know more about these people and their leaders, otherwise it could be dangerous for us, too." Hutch said.

"As Dobey said, we're on our own out there. We need to keep the contact to a person that we can trust. Could be Huggy." Suddenly Starsky had to chuckle. "Me and stealing cars, nobody would believe that one, huh?"

"I wouldn't say that," Hutch smiled thinking of his partner's enthusiasm concerning fast sports cars.

"And what about you? Fed up with the world and looking for another lifestyle?" Starsky had wanted to make a joke but when he looked into Hutch's eyes, he could still see a sadness there. Hutch was having a hard time after Vanessa had left him. The first night at Starsky's they had talked half of the night about the life Hutch had led with Van. Both sprawled on the couch, several cans of beer in front of them on the coffee table, Hutch's pizza only half eaten... it was a mess, and so was Hutch's life. When he talked about the good times he and Van had had, Hutch got emotional and a half drunken Starsky had put his arm around his friend's neck to comfort him. Later they fell asleep, woke up in the morning with their backs aching terribly, but nevertheless they had hope that life was going to be better.

"I'm not so happy with living there," said Starsky who was thinking about his date with Melissa, a stewardess he had met some weeks before.

"Me neither," said Hutch, but after a short break he went on: "On the other hand nothing is worse than coming into a half empty apartment now that Van has left and has taken her things with her."

"Be that as it may, if we are lucky it's only for a short time and with a little help of our friend Huggy we'll be successful," Starsky finished optimistically.

It was ten days later when an old Chevy with altered license plates made its way to the community "We Are Happy Forever" outside the town. Inside the car two young men were busy recapitulating their new identities.

"No, you are not Miller, that's me. You are Brown, Dave Brown," Hutch repeated worrying already about his friend's forgetfulness -- till he saw the mischievous smile on Starsky's face.

"Don't make me crazy!" and Hutch's index finger waggled in front of Starsky's nose.

"Okay, Ken," Starsky pronounced the name with emphasis. "At least we can keep our first names. Ken Miller, not so bad at all. And you said that a cousin of Huggy's has been to the community? How that?"

"Well, Huggy told me that his cousin is a freak for installing and repairing video cameras. I think that was the reason they hired him. Huggy only knew that this community seems to be quite insular. Nobody is leaving unless he has to complete an order." Hutch concentrated on the narrow road that led further into the woods.

"Leaving civilization," Starsky mumbled having the dim feeling that this case could be more complicated than they had expected. Seven young people had been found dead in different parts of the city? What had they done?

They had to investigate in this direction. And not to forget to check the leaders, a certain Robert Wise and his assistant Mary Phorbes.

"Here we go," Hutch said and pointed to the large building that could be seen in the distance. It was surrounded by fields. Starsky looked back where they had come from and noticed it was populated by dense forest.

"Okay, Blondie, hm, wanted to say Ken," Starsky said and patted Hutch's knee encouragingly. "Let's show them that we are the long arm of law. Don't forget to play your part and I'm sure I can tell them all about cars and how to..."

Hutch had stopped the car when he saw a man was approaching them. He wore a uniform of some sort, his face set with a stern expression.

"What are you doing here?" he asked looking them over sceptically.

"Oh, we have heard a lot of good things about your community and we'd like to talk to someone responsible." Hutch explained and the man's look lightened a little.

"You can park over there, and the office is on the right." He pointed to the wide entrance.

"Thanks, man," Hutch said and parked the car in the parking lot. Starsky unloaded their luggage. They carried it up the few stairs, exchanging glances. The investigation on their first case was now officially underway.

So far they hadn't seen anybody outside, except the man in uniform. Now when they entered the building they could see some more people who were obviously working, cleaning the floor or carrying folders from one room to another.

Hutch knocked on the door to his right and opened it. Starsky looked around in astonishment. The office was very large with valuable furniture; the big plush sofa with inscrolled arms and claw-footed legs. Hutch noticed the paintings on the wall, unattainable for people like him. The pictures were well-commissioned oils, framed in heavy gilt and brass.

"I suppose you want to get to know us, so welcome to 'We Are Happy Forever'. My name is Mary Phorbes." A middle aged woman rose from her chair and motioned the men to come nearer. Her inviting smile made them relax and Starsky let out a sigh of relief.

"Well," he started, and after a pause he continued, "my name is Dave Brown and this is my friend Ken Miller. I had some trouble the last time but I'd like to better myself, and they told me that I could get another chance to improve my life, staying with your community."

"You are so right, young man." Mary Phorbes' smile deepened. She turned to Hutch. "What about your problems? I'm sure we can help you, too."

Hutch felt himself blush. He cleared his throat and began: "I -- uh -- I don't feel so good, you know, lots of -- prob -- problems with my family," Hutch's stuttering matched with his confusion.

Mrs. Phorbes took a few steps toward the blond, gripped his arm lightly and said in a reassuring voice: "Don't worry; if you really want to change your life and you do what we tell you, then you're going to be a happy person forever."

She led the newcomers to the door and explained: "First you have to stay one night in our orientation centre. You will be informed what we live for in our community and what is important for you to know. Bob?" She called a young man. "This is Ken and Dave. Would you please show them their room?" With a friendly "See you!" she disappeared in her office.

"Hi Bob, nice to meet you," Starsky greeted the young man, who looked at them insecurely.

Hutch locked glances with Starsky, asking without saying a word: Do you think he could be useful, giving us some information we need?

Starsky shrugged his shoulders. Maybe when they had settled in.

"This is your room for tonight." Bob had opened a door and they were confronted with a small accommodation, filled with six beds, a table with two chairs and a small closet next to the window. Some of the beds were already occupied with personal things. Fortunately there remained two beds next to each other, and Starsky and Hutch put their bags on them.

"Where're all the others?" Hutch asked curiously. Beside him, Bob was looking down the hall.

"Over there in the next building. I'll show you." Starsky and Hutch followed him and tried to keep in mind where the showers, bathrooms and the dining room were.

"In half an hour there will be the meeting for new guests. This is the room you go in for more information." Bob turned his back on them and walked away.

"Strange boy, seems to be a little shy," Starsky smirked and nudged Hutch in his side. "Hey look, there are some rather pretty girls, too."

Actually they could see some young women sitting in another room, a few folders spread in front of them as they sorted through papers and notes.

"Let's go outside for a while," Hutch proposed and drew Starsky with him, who couldn't stop watching the women.

The sun was shining, there was a light breeze, and on the fields in the distance they could see people working.

"They are quite busy, aren't they? And it all looks trimmed here. Nobody would think that someone could be so unhappy as to commit suicide," Starsky had to admit. And indeed, the people they met along their way looked really happy.

"I think it's time to go to our first meeting," Hutch said looking at his pocket watch.

"Hope we get our first meal soon. I'm starving!" Starsky complained, but followed Hutch to the meeting room. About ten people were assembled there, male and female, and Starsky and Hutch sat down next to a girl, who was about twenty years old.

"Hi," Hutch whispered in her direction and got a shy smile from her. Before she could say something, Mrs. Phorbes entered the room and stopped in front of the group. Her short brown hair matched the elegant suit she was wearing. It seemed that she was smiling at everybody in the room, and yet Hutch had the feeling her smile was for him alone.

"Welcome to this wonderful and happy place! I can see in your faces that you are longing for a better life, full of happiness and contentment. You will find it here. Our community 'We Are Happy Forever' will change you into a special human being. There is only one condition: If you want to improve your life you have to follow our instructions. That means ten hours work every day for our community. Maybe it sounds hard to you at this moment, but I can promise you that you will gain more strength by the time you've learned to appreciate your new life. With our special health food and drinks (Starsky's stomach made protesting noises and Hutch had to chuckle) you will feel like new born..."

Half an hour later they were dismissed and followed the others to the dining room where the lunch was served. "Hope it's nothing birds would prefer," Starsky mumbled and when steaming spaghetti with a delicious sauce was brought to the table, Starsky's mood lightened.

"Hey, first you have to drink your health shake," Hutch reminded him. "Remember what they told us before." And with obvious contentment Hutch emptied the glass.

Starsky did the same, with less enthusiasm.

In the afternoon they talked to some members of the community. They were all very friendly, constantly smiling, so that Starsky found himself already missing a little banter and some action.

Supper started again with the health shake and Starsky had to bring himself to put it away. Hutch on the other side was enjoying it. He had always been a health freak, so to speak with Starsky.

Finally their first day was over. Starsky and Hutch couldn't speak very openly because all the beds were occupied now. Some of the newcomers were still reading, others tried to get some sleep.

At 10 o'clock the lights went out, when Starsky was just about to get undressed. "Hey, what..." He rummaged in the darkness, stepped with bare feet on Hutch's shoes that were lying somewhere and cursed through clenched teeth. "Damn, Hutch, I mean, Ken, why can't you put your shoes under the bed! I think I've broken my little toe. By the way, where are my sweats?" Hutch who was already lying in bed, sat up again to help Starsky find his bag with the clothes. Finally Starsky had changed and with a sigh he let himself fall onto Hutch's bed.

"Wrong direction, buddy, yours is over there," Hutch smirked.

"Dummy!" was Starsky's short answer. "We've got to plan our actions for tomorrow. What do you think ought to be our next step?" He had lowered his voice to a whisper, so no one in the room could listen to them.

"Well, I think you should talk to Mrs. Phorbes," Starsky began. "We've got to know more about her job here. Try to find out why some people are leaving the community for some time..."

Hutch whispered back: "Okay, if I take care of the lady you've to find out about the leader Robert Wise. We haven't seen him so far, but there should be a way..." Starsky nodded. Then he got up, put his hand on Hutch's arm and whispered: "Night, sleep tight."

Hutch stayed awake for a longer time. He was thinking about their situation. Quite weird, he had to admit. Living in a community that offered people a happier life, but there were the deaths of seven young people from this community. That was a discrepancy they had to investigate.

He felt comfortable with the kindness of the people here and with his best friend by his side they should be able to solve this case in a short time. He refused to think of his half empty apartment where nobody was waiting for him any longer. With a sigh he turned round and fell asleep at last.

Starsky startled. Loud marching music came over the loudspeaker. It was six o'clock in the morning. Hutch also stirred, the same with the other men in the room. "How cruel to wake us up this early and with this kind of music," could be heard, but it had the wanted effect. All got up and moved to the washroom.

"How you feeling?" Starsky asked his tired friend and Hutch only shrugged his shoulders. Then he mumbled: "Could be worse," and Starsky tried to cheer him up. "Think of your health drink. That will give you the strength to bear hard work and marching music."

Some hours later Starsky wished he had drunk his health shake. It was unaccustomed work for him to pick strawberries from a field. His back ached from stooping all the time and he worried about Hutch whose back was even more susceptible to the harsh strain. A glance at his friend showed him Hutch worked hard to impress everyone else. He pretended to become a useful member of the community. Starsky noticed that his friend had even started a conversation with the young woman beside him. Starsky chuckled. A little distraction was good for his friend. And this job had its advantages He could taste as many strawberries as he wanted. Starsky put another into his mouth and went on with his work.

Finally it was lunch time, and tired and exhausted workers were sitting at the tables, nobody in the mood to talk very much. Thirstily Hutch emptied his health drink, but Starsky could do without it and when nobody seemed to watch him, he offered his drink a thin young girl who gratefully took it.

They trudged to their room to rest for half an hour, before they had to go on working.

They were alone at that moment and Starsky said: "Boy, my legs are like rubber, feel a little wobbly, what about you? How's your back?" Starsky looked at Hutch, who was stretching carefully and had a pained expression on his face.

"It's been a long time since I've worked in the fields," Hutch smiled tiredly and lay down on his bed.

Starsky, sitting on the edge of his bed, asked: "Did you already speak to someone about some people missing and what they think about this lifestyle?"

"Yeah," Hutch yawned, "there's Susan; I talked to her during our work. She comes from San Francisco and had lots of problems with her parents. They forced her to split up with her boyfriend, and then she ran away with him to get married. But he got to know another woman, fell in love and..." Hutch heard a dull sound and looked over to Starsky's bed. His friend had passed out and was stretched out on his bed, lightly snoring, his legs still dangling onto the ground. Hutch got up, lifted Starsky's legs and put them on the bed. He didn't need to cover him with a blanket, it was warm enough. Starsky's cheeks were flushed and sweaty strands of curls were plastered on his forehead. It was going to be a hard working day. It wasn't over yet. Hutch patted his friend's cheek lightly and tried to get some rest himself.

"Get up! We have to go on working!" It was one of their roommates who reminded them of the thousands of strawberries that had to be picked. It was hard work to get Starsky awake. He felt like an old man. Hutch didn't feel better either. Though they were both athletics, this was unusual work. On their way to the fields they came to the conclusion the case had to be solved efficiently.

Sorting the fruits in different baskets, Hutch could tell his friend the rest of his news. "Susan is a real nice girl. She's been living here for four months and says that she's never felt so happy and relaxed. I asked her about the hard work and she told me that she feels strength inside, it's almost incredible. The good food can work wonders. When I asked her about the missing people she acted like she didn't know what I was talking about. She said there were always new members ready to join the community but she didn't know anything about anyone who was missing. She looked at me kinda odd when I kept asking her about it, so I changed the subject.

"Hey buddy, you're thinning the fruit harvest by eating every third strawberry!" Hutch joked and Starsky blushed. Very unusual for his friend who almost never felt embarrassed. Why now? Hutch dared a second glance. Starsky's face was red, also his neck. Maybe it was because of the sun, but... Hutch moved nearer and examined Starsky's skin.

"What? Never seen me before? Get off of me!" Starsky protested when Hutch touched the red parts of his face. "It's hot enough," and he shoved Hutch's hands aside and continued working.

At dinner time Starsky felt a little dizzy so he decided to try another of the health drinks. But when he snatched the glass he let drop it accidentally He looked at his hands and noticed they were trembling. "Hutch?"

"What is it, Dave?" Hutch's voice was full of concern, as he bent over his friend. Something was wrong with Starsky. His face was still reddened, and when Hutch pulled up one sleeve of Starsky's shirt, the arm was red too.

"I'm not feeling very well, Ken," Starsky had reminded himself of their new identity.

"You should lie down, come on," and Hutch helped his friend to get up. Many eyes followed them when they left the dining room. Hutch had taken Starsky's arm to steady him. In their room he helped Starsky lay down, pull off his sneakers and loosen his belt in case Starsky had stomach ache.

"Don't know why I'm feeling so weird," Starsky mumbled, shivering though it was warm in the room.

"Stay here, I'm gonna ask Mrs Phorbes," Hutch proposed and was already halfway out of the room.

When he knocked on the door of the office he heard Mrs Phorbes voice and a male voice. Hutch didn't give a damn about what they were discussing; he needed help for Starsky.

"I -- I have a question. My friend Dave Brown is not feeling well. We ne-need a nurse or doctor," Hutch stuttered. His eyes met a tall distinguished man he hadn't seen earlier.

"Oh Ken, of course we will help your friend!" Mrs. Phorbes reassured him. "This is Dr. Robert Wise, the director of the community. Robert, this is Ken Hutchinson, quite new here. He and his friend want to join us on our way to a happier life." She turned her attention to Hutch. "So let's have a look at your friend."

Her hand lingered a moment longer on Hutch's back, as they walked down the hall.

Robert Wise seemed to be a man of account. When they entered the small room, he introduced himself to Starsky and examined him carefully. He shook his head thoughtfully saying at last: "I'm not sure. Let's take you to the ward. Then I can make some tests. Can you walk alone or should I get a wheelchair?"

"No!" Starsky tried to sit up and Hutch was at once at his side.

"I'll take my friend to the ward. If you tell me the way..."

"Oh, Bob can do that. Excuse us please," and Mrs Phorbes left the room, followed by Doctor Wise, who smiled encouragingly at the two men.

"See you later." And he was gone.

"Shit!" Starsky cursed. "It's only our second day and I'm already put out of action. What now, Hu -- Ken?"

"Don't worry. And at least you don't have to pick thousands of strawberries tomorrow like me." Hutch was stretching again, still feeling a little pain in his back.

"And I can't eat a lot of strawberries," Starsky said regretfully.

"Wait! Eating lots of strawberries -- I remember my little sister Karen had a kind of rash because of too many strawberries. Maybe you're allergic. That's it, Starsk, I mean Dave. You can forget the ward. You only need some rest -- and no strawberries."

Relieved Starsky sank back into the pillow. "Buddy, I owe you what. Nothing serious then."

Someone knocked on the door. Hutch went to open it. Bob was standing there.

"Mrs. Phorbes told me to show Dave Brown the ward," he said.

"Oh, it's you, Bob. You know it isn't necessary to take Dave... but wait a moment, okay?" Hutch said and shut the door behind the young man and turned to Starsky.

An idea struck him.

"Starsk, you are quite sick, and of course you have to go to the ward." Hutch cut Starsky short.

He went on.

"That's our chance to investigate in that direction. Let's check Dr. Wise's business in this community. When you are in the ward, try to speak to the nurses, check the cabinets -- but take care!"

Not really convinced by his friend, Starsky finally agreed.

"Here we are, Bob," said Hutch and led his friend out of their room. He steadied his friend and they followed Bob along the halls till they arrived at the entrance of the ward.

A nurse opened the door after Bob rang the bell. "Be well soon and take care," Hutch whispered into Starsky's ear. He squeezed Starsky's arm and let go.

Starsky disappeared into the ward. Much as Hutch wanted to stay with his friend, he had to return to his room.

On his way back he tried to get some information from Bob, but the shy man only told Hutch that the ward had very modern comforts and all members of the community were regularly checked by the doctor.

"Really?" Hutch was astonished. So they did care about the people who lived there.

"Bob, have you ever heard of people who didn't come back after doing a job outside the community?"

"Don't know what you mean. 'xcuse me." And Bob disappeared round the next corner.

Very funny, Hutch thought, but I'm not finished with you...

In the evening Hutch was chatting with the other men in his room, when the door opened and Mary Phorbes came in.

"Ken Miller, would you please take your bag and your friend's things and follow me?" She was still smiling. Hutch waved to his roommates and went with her outside the room.

"What's the -- the matter?" He tried to appear insecure and at once Mary Phorbes beamed at him, stroking his arm and said in a low voice: "I'd like to give you another room where you'll have more privacy. And as long as your friend is being checked up, you can tell me about your life and your problems." She still had a hold on his arm and led him to a room that was larger and had only two beds.

"If you want me to help unpack your bag, it's no problem," and she didn't hesitate to grab his bag from his hand. Hutch was stunned. What did this woman have in mind? Seduce him? He didn't want to alienate her, but there was no way he was going to end up in a make-out session with her. Now that he thought about it, her skirt was a little too short, hiked above her knees, and her top too tight, even in his opinion.

"Mrs Phorbes," he started, and was immediately interrupted.

"Call me Mary, dear," she said, moving closer, trying to kiss him on the cheek.

He sneezed abruptly, an action that allowed him to avoid her advances.

"Mrs... hm, Mary, I'm really tired, let's talk tomorrow, huh?" He tried to deal gently with her and hustled her to the door.

"All right, Ken. Goodnight then."

He heaved a breath of relief and closed the door. What a woman!

It sounded ridiculous but he was happy that he could lock the door. He had acted like a school boy... He had to tell Starsky about this. Starsky... his thoughts went to his friend.

Buddy, how are you? I miss you. Mrs. Phorbes is a shark. I need you by my side, pal.

The light went out again and Hutch lay down, not feeling relaxed. He wondered what Starsky was doing.

Starsky was lying on the examination table. Dr Wise had checked on him, and now a nurse was putting cream on the reddened skin. It felt quite cool and when he shivered, the nurse smiled: "We are almost done. You can get dressed. Then we only need a urine sample and in the morning the doctor will have a look at you again. Seems that you had an allergic reaction against something... Let's see how you are feeling tomorrow. Come on, I'll show you to your room."

Starsky followed the nurse who looked good in her tight uniform and perky starched hat. They went along wide halls, till they entered another section of the ward. Though it was evening it was quite busy. More patients than Starsky had expected were walking around. Some were reading magazines in a lounge; to Starsky it looked like a hotel, very modern. The only difference was the presence of the nurses in their white uniforms to remind him he was in a hospital.

"Here's your room for tonight."

Starsky settled in hoping there was another patient he could talk to. Unfortunately he was alone. The other bed wasn't occupied. Because of the cream he was feeling a little better. He decided to take a walk around the ward. Inconspicuously, Starsky passed some waiting rooms, lounges and offices and was about to go back, when he noticed the thin girl who had taken his health drink before lunch. She was sitting in a waiting room, looking absent-minded at the opposite wall.

Starsky approached her. "Hi, nice to see you again." He smiled at her, and when she looked at him a little insecurely, he explained: "I gave you my drink during the lunch, you remember? Oh, my red face doesn't mean anything seriously. Got an allergenic reaction..."

"Why are you here?" He looked at her encouragingly, and she seemed to remember him. She motioned him to sit down beside her and started talking in a low whispering voice.

"Well, my last check-up showed that my blood cholesterol level is not good. Besides I'm feeling tired and a little depressed. So I have to stay here for a few days for treatment."

"Why is it so busy here at this time of the evening? And why is the light still on when it's already after ten o'clock?" Starsky looked around.

"I think they're working at night too, doing regular check ups of the people here." The girl said. Before Starsky could ask anything further, a nurse arrived and called the girl.

"Sandy, would you come please, it's time for your infusion."

Starsky had an idea. "Hey, can I accompany her? Sandy and I have just become friends, right, Sandy?" Starsky beamed at her, took her arm before she could object and led her out of the room following the nurse.

"It'll be more fun if we stick together while you're getting your infusion." Starsky turned on the charm. "How 'bout I tag along and cheer you up?" His effort was rewarded by a shy smile from Sandy.

Finally they arrived at another part of the huge ward where the infusions were given. At least ten young people were lying there separated by a curtain. Next to the last cubicle was an office with several cabinets. A nurse sat nearby reading a book.

"Why not take the cubicle over there?" Starsky suggested and pointed to the cubicle next to the office. With a little luck he could distract the nurse and have a closer look at the pharmaceuticals.

The nurse who was responsible for Sandy's infusion only shrugged her shoulders and soon the young girl was relaxing on the stretcher, receiving her infusion. Starsky told her some jokes that brought a wide smile to her face. Feeling sympathy for her, he laid his palm against her cheek.

Suddenly there was a commotion at the other end of the long room. The nurse emerged from her office and headed to the other side.

"Back in a minute, have to use the bathroom," Starsky lied to the girl and left her, drawing the curtain so she couldn't see where he was going.

When he reached the office he found several cabinets, the key still in the lock of the closest one. He opened the cabinet and discovered a number of different bottles inside. He had no idea of the contents, took a piece of paper from the desk, found a pen there, too, and scribbled down some of the names.

"What he hell are you doing here?" The furious voice of the nurse startled him, but he'd always been quick to talk himself out of a jam. The hard years in New York had given him a quick imagination to tell people what they wanted to hear.

"Give me an answer or I'll call security!" she hissed. Starsky knew he had to do some creative talking and fast. There was no need to force a blush because his face was still red from too many strawberries.

"Ssh, Nurse... Becky," he said in a whisper, noting her name tag. "It's top secret! Don't you know that we are planning to surprise Dr. Wise on his next birthday? I'm the lucky one who gets to write a poem about his job and the people who work with him. So I need some names of the drugs that are used here to include in my poem. You know you are doing wonders here and it will be a great surprise for the doc when he hears we all appreciate him so much!"

Starsky looked into sceptical eyes and decided to do something off-the cuff.

"Look, Becky this is the list of drugs I have already. Can you give me some more names? Then my poem would turn out to be extraordinary and the Doctor will like it! You can talk to Mrs. Phorbes if you like, but she told me not to speak to anyone about the surprise. You understand now? Remember: We Are Happy Forever!"

Starsky felt fatigue wash over him. If she didn't buy it...

"Okay, I'll give you some more names," she agreed. "But you've got to promise to mention me in your poem."

"Sure, Becky, you are the best." After she had given him the names of more drugs Starsky left her, giving her a peck on the cheek.

"See you at the birthday party," and he returned to Sandy, who was already waiting for him. He felt so relieved, he could have hugged her, but instead he took her arm gently and said quietly: "Let's go back to your room. How ya feeling? Better?" She nodded and when they arrived at her room he took her small hands in his and said: "It's been a pleasure to be with you this evening. See you tomorrow. Night."

Gathering her courage, Sandy gave him a kiss on the cheek. Then she disappeared into her room and left a stunned Starsky behind. Life wasn't so bad after all, he decided, vowing to tell Hutch all about his experiences that evening.

Later in the ward, Starsky lay in bed, the paper with the list of drugs still clutched in his hand. Finally, he hid it under his pillow and drifted to sleep.

Hutch was dreaming. Soft hands were caressing his face, pushing fine strands of hair off his forehead, then going down till soft fingertips touched his lips. He moaned lightly thinking Vanessa was back. When he felt a hand touching his thigh he whispered "Van," and opened his eyes.

"Morning, Ken, hope you had a good night." Hutch didn't believe his eyes. Mary Phorbes was bending over him, a sensual smile on her face. Tenderly she stroked his cheek. Hutch backed off and, grasping her by the wrist, couldn't hide his sudden anger.

"Lady, I don't know what your problem is, but whatever you've got in mind, you can forget it! And why are you in my room? I locked the door..."

"Honey, there is a side door; you probably haven't noticed. I can make you feel better, believe me. From the first moment I saw you I knew you were someone special."

She sat down on the edge of the bed. Her hand was still on his thigh, sliding a little higher now. Hutch was about to shove her back, when he realized he could use her advances to his benefit, even if it meant playing the part of the klutzy unhappy man who was awkward with women.

"Um... Mary." He cleared his throat and moved a little sideward, unsettling her hand from his thigh. Gathering her fingers, he spoke shyly: "You know, I'm not used... um... please give me some more time, but you are really attractive."

He looked at her with pleading eyes (God, if Starsky saw him like this, he would make fun of him the rest of his life). She noticed his insecurity and stood.

"Don't worry, dear, we have a lot of time. Get dressed and we'll talk about it later." She turned to go.

"Mary, could you give me another job?" Hutch asked, deciding it might be a good time to play on her sympathy. "My back bothers me when I work in the field." He paused a moment, then went on. "What about helping the cook to prepare meals? I like your healthy food and the special drinks. They're so refreshing."

"Sure, of course, I'll arrange that." She left the room and Hutch hurried to get dressed. He planned to pick up Starsky from the ward right after breakfast.

By accident he ended up sitting next to Susan, the young woman from San Francisco. They talked a while till she had to leave for the work in the field. He almost regretted not being able to go with her. She had been pleasant company.

He made his way to the ward, a smile on his face. There was a lot to tell his friend. Hutch rang the bell, they let him in and led him along the corridors till they entered another part of the building. Finally the nurse opened the door to a room, and Hutch spotted his friend chatting to a young girl.

As soon as Starsky saw Hutch he crossed the room with wide strides.

"Buddy!" Starsky almost hugged his friend, but let go quickly before he drew attention to them. He reached up to whisper in Hutch's ear: "Have to tell you things..."

Hutch bent down and whispered back: "Me too, pal."

Hutch looked at the thin girl and Starsky introduced her. "Meet Sandy. I was with her last night when she got an infusion. She has to stay here for one more night, before she can go back to do her job outside the community."

"Nice to meet you, Sandy," Hutch said and shook her hand. "When you are back from your job, you must tell us all about it. Maybe we could do such a job, too. What do you think, Sta... Dave?"

"Sure. Okay, take care, Sandy," and Starsky gave her a quick hug, then turned to Hutch and steered him in direction of the exit. Starsky said:

"Let's go for a walk. By the way, Doctor Wise told me that I have a day off. He diagnosed me with an allergic reaction to strawberries. Have you ever imagined that?"

Hutch chuckled, and when they were walking along the trimmed paths Hutch told his friend about his adventure with Mrs Phorbes.

"Poor boy, and I wasn't there to protect you," Starsky teased him and put his hand on Hutch's arm.

"I want to show you something." Starsky was serious again and stopped walking when they had reached some bushes that hid them from the others. He fumbled in his jeans pocket and came up with a piece of paper, already a little crumpled.

"Sensational," Hutch had to admit when he heard the story of the pretended poem for Doctor Wise. "We've to give the names to Huggy. He can transfer them to Dobey to analyze them. By the way, I've got a new job. From now on I'm working in the kitchen. Should be possible to find another job for you, too. Let me talk to Mrs Phorbes about it. What would you like to do?" Hutch asked, and after a while, when they had returned to the main building and Starsky spotted a large limousine next to the main entrance, Starsky clicked his fingers.

"Cars! I could take care of the cars! Doctor Wise told me that he just bought a new Mercedes. He's crazy about his new car and wouldn't trust anybody to look after it. Could be my job..."

"I'll see what I can do," Hutch promised.

Starsky chuckled, thinking of Mary Phorbes. "Behave yourself," he said with a grin.

Two weeks later...

Hutch had become the assistant of the cook and aided in the preparation of delicious meals and desserts. The only thing he wasn't allowed to touch were the daily health shakes, and that annoyed him. He liked the shakes and longed for the recipe, but there was no chance to catch a glimpse on it.

Nevertheless it was strange. Now he realized that the glasses for the shakes had different colours. When the health drinks were served some groups at the tables got their drinks in orange glasses, others in blue. Starsky and Hutch so far had orange glasses. Okay, Hutch thought, they were still newcomers. Maybe later they would get the better shakes.

He had to admit he felt quite relaxed. His physical strength had grown and there were only a few times that he had to think back to what Vanessa had done to him. Instead of being worn down he was in high spirits. He had the feeling the world was his oyster and he smiled to himself.

Surely it had to do a lot with Susan, whom he was starting to fall in love with. He'd been spending more and more time with her, growing closer with each day. She had been abandoned by her boyfriend, was left behind without having a caring family to support her. Hutch had a similar background. He'd grown up in a surrounding that was only interested in making money. His father had rarely come home from his office before mid evening, too tired to play with his little son. His mother grew more involved with charity activities. There had been only his grandfather who had loved him unconditionally.

Ken Hutchinson had become a reserved young man who didn't let people get close to him. He had been the best student in his group but it hadn't meant a lot to him. His father had expected him to become a doctor or a lawyer like himself, and Hutch had even started medical studies.

Hutch had to smile again. Now he was deeply undercover as a cop, immersed in his first case, his best friend by his side. He felt incredibly lucky.

"Hey, Ken, you can serve the drinks," the cook interrupted Hutch's thoughts and Hutch hurried to the tables. He sat down next to Starsky, offered him his drink but Starsky only looked a little bashfully, turned round and poured the liquid into a big flowerpot containing a palm.

"Sorry, but..." Starsky mumbled excusatory. Hutch shook his head and swallowed his drink.

"Buddy, you don't know what is good for you. Let me tell you, I'm feeling so good, can't explain exactly." Searchingly Hutch scanned the room for Susan. He spied her across the tables, and noticed with some astonishment that she was drinking her shake from a blue glass.

"What's it?" Starsky had followed Hutch's gaze. Starsky stopped eating and leaned into his friend. "Anything I should know?"

"Well, Susan is something special," Hutch started and couldn't help blushing a little.

"Good for you!" Starsk said fully convinced. It was time Hutch looked ahead and got some distraction. On the other hand they needed more information about living in this community and Hutch could ask Susan about the details.

Plus there was still the problem with the names of the drugs Starsky had to give to Dobey. So far Starsky had no chance to go outside the community though his new job was quite interesting. He was taking care of Robert Wise's car, and the doctor seemed to trust him. Maybe some day Starsky could drive the leader of the community into town. Then he should have the chance... Huggy's cousin!

Starsky clicked his fingers. If he damaged the video cameras in the main hall, he could get Huggy's cousin to come repair them.

"See you in the evening, Ken." Starsky rose from his table, let his hand linger a moment on his friend's back then returned to the garages to wash and wax Dr.Wise's car.

"Hi Bob," Starsky greeted the young man who had shown them around the first day. Bob was sauntering around the vehicles of the staff.

"Are you interested in cars? Then nobody would mind if you help me a little." Bob came nearer and Starsky gave him a cloth to wax the car.

After a while the young man grew more relaxed. He told Starsky he'd been living in the community for over half a year and was genuinely happy. He had friends for the first time in his life and didn't feel alone any more.

"But you are looking a little depressed to me," Starsky had to admit. "You always walk alone... where are all your friends?"

Bob looked around, noticed the video camera in the corner of the garage and walked around the car so that he was out of sight of the camera. Starsky followed him.

"You can tell me what's worrying you. I want to be your friend," Starsky encouraged the young man by his side. Finally Bob told him about two of his friends who had left the community to find new members. Normally the workers were driven in a van to different places in the city. There they spoke to young people to convince them of a better life in the community. In the evenings they were brought to a little motel to stay the night.

"They always came back after a week or so, but Tom and John were not in the van when it returned the last time. I asked about them and the driver told me they had another job to do," Bob finished in a sad voice.

Starsky remembered they were victims found in the streets of Bay City.

There was no doubt: Something was very wrong here. Starsky remembered the extended ward, basically hospital in the community. The busy activity even at night and too many patients for such a healthy community. What had Sandy told him? They were all being checked up regularly -- but why?

Starsky decided to talk with Hutch about these mysterious things.

Hutch was enjoying Susan's company. The young woman had just come back from the field. She welcomed Hutch's embrace and snuggled against him.

"How's the work?" he asked her and tenderly pushed some strands of blond hair off her forehead.

"I feel terrific," she smiled and Hutch remembered the blue glass she was offered at lunch time.

"I noticed you're sitting at the table with the blue health shakes. Any reason for that?"

"Yeah, Doctor Wise told me this morning that I belong to a privileged group. I'll be allowed to go outside the community to find new members. I feel really excited, Ken. Would love to be here with you too, but going out to do such a special job for the community means a lot to me. Let's ask Mrs Phorbes if you can belong to the privileged group, too."

Hutch's smile vanished. The experience he'd had with Mary Phorbes was nothing he wanted to discuss with Susan. There was no way Mrs Phorbes would let him stay with Susan.

At that moment as Hutch walked arm in arm with Susan, Mary Phorbes came around a corner. Hutch had the feeling her everlasting smile froze in place when she saw the two of them coming toward her.

"Ken, may I talk to you in my office?" There it was. He had to follow her invitation, squeezed Susan's hand lightly and went into the office.

"I'd like to talk to you about your future in our community. As you know I think the world of you. I'm sure that you are now settled in enough to get involved with me. I have seen that you treat Susan in a very -- well normal way. You are not as shy as you wanted me to believe. Come here, Ken Miller, I need a man like you, never wanted another one!"

With these words she put her arms around him, squeezed him tightly and Hutch felt the dominate power of this woman. She pressed her body against his, her mouth seeking his.

He turned his head, but this time she didn't pull away. She found his earlobe and started nibbling on it.

"Leave it!" Hutch never thought that his voice could be so harsh. With all his strength, he pushed her back, barely controlling his anger.

"For the last time: I'm not interested in your games. And what I do with Susan isn't any of your business either!" Fuming he went out of the door and slammed it behind him. He didn't see the hateful gaze on her face. It was the look of an abandoned lover seeking revenge...

Starsky was waiting for Hutch in their room. Hutch was late. Normally they met about 9 pm after Hutch had spent some time with Susan. Now it was dark already and Starsky started worrying. He decided to look for his friend and was about to step out of the door when it opened abruptly, banging into his forehead.

"Hey!" Starsky held his head -- and looked into worried eyes.

"Didn't mean to hurt you." Hutch instantly reached out, pushed Starsky's hand softly away to have a look at the lump that was forming there. All his anger gave way to deep concern for his friend. Playfully he puffed against the lump to cool it, waited for Starsky to protest, but Starsky only locked glances with him, then asked quietly: "What went wrong?"

Hutch moved to his bed, stretched out there with the headrest behind his back. He pointed to the empty space beside him and motioned Starsky to join him.

"You know, Starsk, I can't stand this woman Mary Phorbes! Maybe it's not good for our case but I can't pretend any longer to be the fresh water guy she can do what she wants with. Today she tried to seduce me again! Now that I know Susan and think I really like her, I can't play Mrs Phorbes' games any longer."

"Have you talked to Susan bout it?" Starsky shifted a little to get more comfortable.

"Yeah, I promised I'd be there for her. She is supposed to do a job outside the community and I'd like to accompany her. But first I've gotta belong to the group with blue drinks."

"What?" Starsky straightened and looked at Hutch.

"So you're gonna leave me here to go away with Susan? What about our first case? Always thought it would be a piece of cake, you and me together. Do you think I'm gonna handle the whole thing alone while you amuse yourself with Susan?"

Starsky tried to shift away from Hutch, but was held back.

"It's just the opposite, buddy. Look, I can get in contact with Huggy this way; can give him the names of the drugs, so they can analyze them." Hutch drew Starsky closer to him again. "I would never leave you here alone, know that?" Starsky only nodded. For a moment he had felt so vulnerable, not sure if he could count on Hutch, now that he had found Susan.

Starsky got up and went to the window. This case had to be solved quickly. Huggy's cousin had to show up to give the information to Dobey. Starsky decided to talk to Sandy again the next morning. She was also supposed to do a job outside the community. Perhaps she could find out more about the people who hadn't come back alive.

"Feeling better?" Hutch's soft voice reached Starsky and he turned around and smiled at his best friend.

"I'm okay. Tomorrow I'll cause a little action by damaging the video cameras. And you take care of Susan -- and your health drinks. And if you make it to the blue glass, let me taste from it. Must be a real wonder drink."

Starsky went to the shower and when he came back, Hutch was already asleep. It had been an eventful day. Starsky lay down and his last thought before drifting away was: I'll be there for you buddy, if Mary Phorbes is going to enter this room again. Don't worry...

"Sandy, hey Sandy!" Starsky was on his way to the garages the next morning, when he saw the girl walking along the hall. "Where're you going?" He squeezed her arm and looked into her eyes. "You don't look so good. What is it?"

"Don't know, Dave," she smiled, a little sad. "I was supposed to do the job outside the community, but I'm feeling weak, so they want to give me a check up again. How are you?"

"Terrific, when I see you," Starsky said and led her to the ward. He had enough time before he had to look after the cars. A nurse let them in and while Sandy was waiting in a lounge to see the doctor, Starsky peeked into some other rooms curious what was happening there.

He opened another door -- and was rooted to the spot. There were about ten beds next to each other, all covered with a white sheet. And at the bottoms of the beds Starsky could see bare feet. Obviously patients, but why were their heads covered by sheets? It looked like -- dead bodies! Starsky shuddered. Did that mean... more patients than expected were dying? Starsky didn't dare to investigate further at the moment.

He closed the door and told Sandy he had to leave to do his job. He kissed her on the cheek and waved goodbye.

On his way to the garage he stopped by the storeroom took out the ladder and did what he had planned the day before. It had to look like an accident, and when he crashed the ladder into the main video camera in the entrance hall, it did indeed produce a frightening sound, noticed by all.

"I'm so sorry," Starsky mumbled desperately and even the doorman tried to calm him.

"It was an accident that can happen; we have a specialist who can repair it very quickly. Mrs Phorbes needn't know it..."

Speak of the devil. Mary Phorbes emerged from her office. There was no smile on her face when she looked at Starsky. He got the impression that she blamed him for the disappointment she'd had with Hutch.

Without saying anything to Starsky, she ordered the doorman to call service so the video camera could be repaired.

At the same time Dr. Robert Wise appeared around the corner. "Dave -- there you are. I need your help," he said impatiently. "I need a driver to take me to town. My chauffeur called in sick today. Can you handle his job?"

"Sure," Starsky said. "Just give me a moment to change. I'll be back in five minutes."

He hurried to his room. The most important thing was to take the piece of paper with the names of the medication with him. Hopefully he could disappear a moment when they were in town and he could phone Dobey and give him the names of the drugs.

Robert Wise was already waiting, when Starsky hurried to the car. He started the engine. It was a wonderful sound in Starsky's ears. And the feeling, sitting behind the steering wheel of a big Mercedes limousine was just priceless. Normally Starsky preferred sports cars, but this one was special. There was a lot of space and the leather seats had a hyphenate one-of-a kind smell. Starsky enjoyed the drive to the fullest.

The closer they got to town, the heavier the traffic became. Robert Wise directed him to a big complex of buildings.

"Please wait here; I have a conference with some business partners. It won't last long. See you."

When he had left the car, Starsky looked over the building and noticed the name "Gunther Industries" in big letters on the front side. He scribbled the name on the paper in his pocket and looked for a phone booth. Nothing. Damn! He didn't dare to leave the car.

Finally Robert Wise emerged from the building and they drove back to the community. Starsky's disappointment changed into excitement when he saw a van parked in front of the main entrance. "Video Supplies and Repair Service."

He drove a little faster and Dr Wise smiled:

"Already hungry -- as always, Mr Brown? Longing for your health drink, am I right?"

"Oh, yes, of course," Starsky answered, hoping the best for the big palm in the dining room.

A little later Starsky had parked the car in the garage and was strolling to the main entrance.

He could see two men working on the video camera in the hall. One of them was a black man and Starsky could easily imagine it was Huggy's cousin. He beared a certain resemblance to their friend.

Starsky pretended to be interested in the repair work; understandable to all the others. He had destroyed the video camera and wanted to watch the progress of the work.

"Hey guys," he started, "It was me who did the damage on the camera. Sorry..."

The black man turned around and locked glances with Starsky. Huggy's cousin nodded subtly. "Do me a favour, man, hold my tool bag while I climb up the ladder, will you?"

Starsky understood. He took the bag, and while the other curious people watched the man climb the ladder, Starsky put the paper into the bag.

"Here you are, mister." Starsky passed the tool bag up to Huggy's cousin. The other worker had entered Mary Phorbes office, probably to go over the bill and collect payment.

Starsky looked at his watch. It was almost lunchtime. Hutch would be happy when he heard of their little success.

The door to the office opened and Mary Phorbes and the other worker came out.

"You finished, Julian?" he asked. Huggy's cousin nodded and climbed down the ladder. Starsky was about to leave when he felt a light, reassuring touch on his back. Julian brushed past and Starsky knew his message would find its way out.

The sound of the gong told them it was lunchtime. Entering the dining room, Starsky looked for Hutch but didn't see him. Must be over hundred people, Starsky thought and many new faces among them. He sat down and waited for Hutch who normally served the health drinks.

"Here's your seat." Mary Phorbes pointed to the empty chair at Starsky's side and a young man sat down.

"Wait!" Starsky protested. "This is reserved for my friend -- Ken."

Mary Phorbes gave him a sharp smile.

"You are wrong, Mr Brown. From now on Ken Miller belongs to the blue group. I'm really sorry for you. Maybe next month we can talk about this step for you. Don't forget your health drink, by the way." And with those words she disappeared.

The young man beside him ducked his head as if he was afraid and drank his shake.

Starsky continued to search for Hutch. He eventually spied him sitting next to Susan and talking to her, an enamored expression on his face.

Starsky got up. He had to talk to Hutch. But before he went over to the other group, he had to get rid of his drink. He looked behind his chair, the glass in his hand, when he noticed something strange. The palm didn't look at all very healthy. Brown spots could be seen on the leaf endings and the whole plant was tilting to one side.

Wow! Starsky couldn't believe it. Had his drinks caused the palm to wilt? He had to talk to Hutch at once!

Still holding his glass, he approached the table of the blue group.

"I'm surprised to see you over here?" He put his hand on Hutch's shoulder, seeing only happiness on his face.

"Don't want your drink? Give it to me!" And Hutch took it and drank it before Starsky could make any objections.

"I'm quite lonely over there," Starsky pouted, but Hutch only laughed. Suddenly Starsky felt really miserable. He missed his friend terribly. Hutch only had eyes for Susan.

"Well, meet you later," Starsky mumbled and trudged to his table. He had no appetite any more.

That evening Hutch came into their room even later than the days before. Starsky had given up looking for him. He knew Hutch was with Susan. Maybe they were already planning their future together.

"Buddy, have to tell you some news," Hutch seemed to be really excited. "I have a big chance to go out for a job with Susan very soon. It's a privilege to belong to the blue group. I'm so happy, pal!" When there was no reaction on Starsky's side, Hutch gripped Starsky's hands to pull him up out of the chair.

"Aren't you happy for me? Or are you still hurting from the lump on your head?" Hutch tried to caress the spot with his thumb, but Starsky pushed him off.

"I don't understand at all, what's going on here, p-a-l! We can't talk about the job we have to do, you are not interested in investigating the strange things that are happening. Did I tell you about the ward and the room with the covered bodies? Yes, I did, but you didn't listen, because it seems that you want to belong to this community!"

Starsky forced himself to calm down. Hutch only looked at him blankly.

"Wait! I'll be back soon." Starsky said after a little pause and rushed out of the door. He decided to have a word with Mary Phorbes.

Without knocking on the door he stormed into her office.

"Mrs Phorbes, I have a ques..." Starsky hesitated. The light in the large room was dimmed, nobody sat behind the desk, but next to the window where the wide leather couch stood there was a light movement. Starsky took two steps till he could see what was happening. Mary Phorbes was lying straddled over someone, she was topless and her skirt was pushed up.

"Hope I'm not disturbing you," Starsky smirked and looked curiously at the man who tried to free himself from the woman draped over him.

"James, is that you? Thought you called in sick." Starsky had recognized Mr. Wise's chauffeur.

"Get out of here!" yelled Mary Phorbes, trying to cover herself.

"And I want you to leave my friend Ken Miller alone," Starsky said in a very quiet voice. "Don't you dare to do anything to him! I'm wondering why you let him be with Susan... Lady what do you have in mind?"

"Leave me!" she almost cried hysterically and Starsky retreated slowly to the door, the poor chauffeur, his pants still halfway down, followed him.

Starsky closed the door behind them.

"Don't tell Mr. Wise," the chauffeur begged hiking up his pants and Starsky had sympathy for the man.

"It's okay, James." Starsky smiled and the embarrassed man disappeared round the next corner.

Starsky had lost all sympathy for Mary Phorbes. He could only hope that she would leave Hutch alone, but at the same moment he knew, something was terribly wrong. Mary Phorbes would want revenge after what had just happened.

Thoughtfully he entered his room again. Hutch was lying on his bed, following Starsky's movements without saying a word. Starsky lay down, too and looked at the ceiling. Their silence wasn't a companionable one this time.

Hutch was contented with his new lifestyle, but couldn't find the words to tell his friend. Already he had almost forgotten Vanessa. Life was beautiful again. With Susan he could plan a new future. His last check-up wasn't so bad either. He had followed the instructions for drinking the health shakes and it was like discovering something wonderful. He was the happiest person in the world!

He looked over to Starsky whose forehead was creased in a frown. Hutch knew why his friend wasn't as happy as he could be. Starsky had refused to drink the special shakes, and now he was experiencing difficulties in being "happy forever."

Poor friend! Hutch sighed and would have loved to comfort his friend. But earlier Starsky had pushed him back. He wasn't ready to follow the way to a happier life. Hutch turned around to get some sleep, and after a while he heard Starsky leave for the shower. Hutch fell asleep with a smile on his face. Soon he was doing his first job outside -- with the woman he loved.

The days passed. Starsky didn't see Hutch very often. During the meals they were separated because they belonged to different groups. Susan and Hutch were trained to do their first job outside. That meant, they would stay somewhere in town to speak to young people about joining the community "We Are Happy Forever." Obviously Hutch had lost his interest in solving their first case.

Late at night, when both men were in their room and Starsky started a conversation about the case, Hutch gave his opinion and answered Starsky's questions. But he soon changed the topic and seemed only to be interested in Susan, the blue group, the health drinks and how happy he felt.

Slowly Starsky got the impression that Hutch's personality was changing in a strange way. Starsky watched his friend more carefully, occasionally noticing an over-the-moon mood. Then there were situations when Starsky saw signs of certain indifference, maybe even sadness in Hutch's behaviour.

This case had to be solved quickly before it would cause more damage to Hutch and their friendship. Starsky couldn't bear the thought of losing Hutch to an obscure community.

Starsky remembered himself to concentrate on their first case again. What did they have so far? Hundreds of young people who were living a happier life -- but after some time they were acting strangely. Then the regular check-ups in a very busy hospital ward. Even at night there were a lot of patients, waiting for some treatment.

Starsky had also realized that the fluctuation was quite big. Many new faces were seen, but a lot of the familiar ones had disappeared. Maybe they had those special jobs, but what happened outside? Seven young people had died but nobody knew the reason.

Dr. Wise had connections to Gunther Industries. Dobey would have to investigate in that direction. Maybe the names of the medication would also help to unearth the truth.

Over the next few days Starsky looked for Sandy. He hadn't seen her for a long time. He went to the ward and Nurse Becky let him in. She winked at him conspiratorially and he winked back. He only hoped that she never found out that the poem for Dr. Wise would never be written.

Sandy wasn't in the ward. He was told that she worked in the streets of the town to find new people for the community. On his way out of the hospital, Starsky slowed down when he reached the sector with the rooms where he had seen covered people before. He had to know if there were really dead bodies.

He entered one of the rooms, didn't switch on the lights and moved slowly to one of the beds. He could see two feet; the rest was covered by a sheet. Carefully he drew back the sheet to have a look at the face -- and stood frozen. The person was dead, there was no doubt. He checked for a pulse -- nothing. He checked all the other bodies and came to the same result.

He was about to leave the room again when he heard voices outside.

"Have you seen him? What is he doing here?" Mary Phorbes' angry voice was heard.

Then Nurse's Becky's frightened answer: "I don't know anything, really, you must believe me!"

The doorknob was already moving when Starsky decided to do something he never had thought about in his entire life...

"Anybody in here?" Mary Phorbes entered the room, switched the lights on, looked around -- and realized what kind of room it was. She glanced at the beds; saw the feet, the sheets. She moved backwards and hurried out of the room. Nurse Becky closed the door after she had switched the lights off again.

One of the sheets moved and Starsky still trembling, appeared from under it. How lucky he had been that the bed he had chosen was still empty. Starsky breathed a sigh of relief. He wiped the sweat off his forehead and moved to the door to step out. He peered out of the door. Nobody was in sight and he hurried in the direction of the hospital exit.

"There he is!" he heard a screaming voice and knew who was running after him. He slowed down and turned around to face his follower.

"Stop him!" Mary Phorbes, short of breath, shouted. Hands on her hips, she hissed in an icely voice: "I want you to leave the ward immediately. You are not allowed to visit anybody here from now on. Go!"

Starsky didn't say anything. He left, racking his brains how to press ahead with the case.

That night Starsky had difficulties falling asleep. He kept thinking about finding a way out of the community so he could inform Dobey about the amount of dead people in the hospital ward.

Then he heard Hutch moaning. Starsky listened, suddenly full awake. When the moaning continued Starsky went over to Hutch's bed. What was wrong with his friend?

"Hutch, c'mon, wake up, sshh, calm down, it's only me." Hutch was thrashing around now and Starsky had to apply some pressure to bring Hutch's arms down. Then something strange happened.

From one moment to the other Hutch's mood seemed to change. He lay still and put his arm over his face. Suddenly Starsky heard a sob. He leaned over his friend and lifted Hutch's arm. Tears were running down Hutch's face. He was crying.

That was almost too much to bear for Starsky. All the tension of the last weeks made him fight back his own tears. He sat down on the edge of the bed and laid his head on Hutch's chest to regain his composure. It was somehow comforting to feel his friend's strong heartbeat and Starsky pressed his face into the soft material of Hutch's shirt. Eventually the sobs subsided and Hutch seemed to relax. Starsky lifted his head and looked into his friend's watery blue eyes.

"Feeling better?" Starsky asked and Hutch only nodded. He tried to sit up and Starsky shifted till they were sitting face to face.

"Tell me: what's worrying you?" Starsky asked.

"Hum, it's really strange," Hutch cleared his voice and went on. "I dreamed I could only be happy if I ended my life by committing suicide. Then I would be happy forever. I felt so unhappy in this world and so fed up that I couldn't bear it any longer. Funny, isn't it?"

The sad impression on Hutch's face made Starsky cringe.

"What are you telling me, buddy? That's shit! I always thought you were the happiest person here. What's going wrong?" Starsky wanted to know.

"Dunno," Hutch shrugged his shoulders. "Even at daytime I feel a sudden sadness and I don't know how to cope with it."

"What about Susan? Are you still happy with her?"

"Yeah, Susan -- sometimes I'm not sure if she's still interested in me or if it's the other way round." Hutch's voice trailed into silence. Starsky noticed the fatigue in his friend's behaviour and got up.

"Get some more sleep, okay? And wake me up if you start having bad dreams again. Will you?"

Starsky lay down on his bed and was about to fall asleep when he heard the whispered words: "Know what? You're still my best friend."

"Dave Brown? Please come into my office!" Starsky rolled his eyes when Mary Phorbes entered the garage and summoned him. Not her again! He'd been just about to start his work, but now followed her grudgingly expecting the worst.

He only looked defensively at her when she sat down behind her large desk and opened a drawer.

"I've got a special task for you. These important folders have to be transferred to Dr. Wise. As his chauffeur is not available today," she was blushing a little. "I thought you could bring him the papers. I'll give you the address and you can take any car in the garage you want. Is that okay with you?"

For a moment Starsky was speechless. Taking any car he wanted? Leaving the community to go to town? Having the chance to inform Dobey finally?

He tried to hide his joy and mentioned in a cool voice. "Not so good today. I've to repair some cars..."

"Not a problem at all! Later I'll send you somebody who can help you with your work. It's important that Dr. Wise gets these papers this morning."

She was smiling a little as she passed him the folders with an encouraging nod.

"See you later, Dave. And you know how to find the address? Here's the description."

Starsky almost ran down the hall, pushing open the door to the garage and looking over the cars. Which one should he take? He decided in favour of the Ford Mustang convertible; he liked the bright red colour.

Soon he had left the ground of the community and headed to town. He had followed Mary Phorbes directions for the address, but had reached a suburb that looked deserted and run down. Had he missed a turn? Some boys were playing basketball in the driveway of a home that looked like it hadn't been lived in six months. They gaped at the bright red car and Starsky began to feel uncomfortable.

He drove around the next corner only to find himself in front of an old building where the windows were already broken. To his left was wasteland. It was inconceivable that Dr. Robert Wise would wait in such a place to receive vital documents. Starsky stopped the car.

Suddenly he was hit by the realization that it had been a set up! Hastily he opened the folders -- and found only snippets of old newspapers. Mary Phorbes! He should have known that she wanted her revenge. But why had she sent him away?

Hutch! Maybe his friend was in danger; maybe she had something crazy in her mind... With screeching tires Starsky turned the car and rushed out of town back to the community.

His heart was pounding. He couldn't believe that he had been so naive to trust Mary Phorbes.

Ignoring any speed limit, Starsky hurried home. No, it wasn't home at all, but Hutch was there and that made it like a home for Starsky.

When he approached the ground and saw the dark forest that surrounded the community, Starsky felt relieved. He had to check on Hutch. He followed the looping way to the building when suddenly four men came out of the bushes from the left and the right and provoked him to come to a halt.

"What's up?" Starsky asked innocently, but was forced to get out of the car.

"You are not allowed to stay any longer in the community 'We Are Happy Forever', one of the men said and another man added. "Mrs Phorbes' order."

"I have to talk to her at once!" Starsky demanded, but they pushed him away from the car and one man threw Starsky's bag in front of his feet.

"You have to leave the property immediately. Go!" And with these words two of the men pushed Starsky forward in the direction of the woods. It was a long walk during which time Starsky tried to convince them that it must have been a mistake -- it was all in vain.

Finally Starsky was standing alone near the road. He was tempted to wait for the cover of darkness to sneak back. But he knew there was no chance he could save Hutch alone. He had to call for help. He walked along the road and his thoughts went out to Hutch.

Buddy, couldn't help it but our wonderful Mary Phorbes fooled me and made me leave. Please take care of yourself. I'll be there in no time to help you out, be sure. You told me that I'm still your best friend. I'll prove it. You won't be alone.

A van was approaching and Starsky lifted his thumb. The farmer agreed to take Starsky to the next village. From there he took the bus. He had to change two times and arrived in Bay City in the evening. Totally exhausted, Starsky entered police headquarters. His superior, Captain Dobey wasn't in his office and Starsky sat down in the squad room to write his report.

Suddenly the door burst open and Captain Dobey rushed into the room.

"Starsky! Someone told me that he had just seen you entering the building. How are you? And where is Hutch?"

Surprised, Starsky looked at the brawny man. Dark eyes full of concern fixed the young detective.

"Captain, Hutch is still there. They threw me out and Hutch is at Mrs Phorbes' mercy. We gotta get him outta there. He wasn't feelin' so great the last time I saw him. We gotta move fast!"

Starsky sounded desperate and Dobey put his hand on Starsky's shoulder. "We'll do that, I promise. Thanks to your investigation we have found out that they are doing experiments with new drugs. With the help of Huggy's cousin, Julian, we got your note that the leader Dr.Wise has connections to Gunther Enterprises. We found out that there is also a department of pharmaceutical Research and Development that belongs to Gunther Enterprises."

"Obviously they are testing the drugs on innocent young people who want to start a new life. But after a while it seems that this new drug changes the personality of the test person. After feeling very happy they end up being more and more depressed. So it's true that the young people we found really committed suicide. By the way, another young woman was found dead. She was lying near a school yard," Dobey ended his report and looked at Starsky who was becoming more and more agitated.

"Captain, then Hutch is in real danger. I think I know how the patients are given the drugs -- they have to drink health shakes several times a day. And Hutch always drinks his shakes. Even now he belongs to the blue group. These people get special drinks. I'm afraid it's a high dose of that new drug and extremely dangerous!"

"What about you?" Dobey asked. "You look okay to me. Didn't these shakes harm you?"

Starsky couldn't avoid blushing a bit.

"Captain, I'm not into this health stuff, so I got rid of the shakes. Now a big palm is suffering from the drug. The plant really looks depressed."

A little smile crept over Starsky's face. He remembered the palm in the dining room. And he remembered the last day when Mrs Phorbes had come out of the kitchen with some health drinks. She knew exactly what she was doing with the drinks. And now she was trying to kill Hutch because he had refused to become her lover.

Starsky jumped off his chair.

"I'm going to phone Huggy. We can't wait any longer. We have to get Hutch out of that loony bin. Captain, I will inform you as soon as I know more. Maybe we need back up. Oh, I just forgot. Do you know the name of the woman you found dead in the school yard?"

"Yes, let me look at the report... Here we go. Her name is Sandy Fowler..."

"Did you say Sandy?" Starsky interrupted his superior, a shocked expression on his face. "I knew her..." Starsky had to choke but then he straightened and said full of determination: "See you, Captain. Wish me luck."

The next twenty-four hours were filled with preparations for the coup to get Hutch out of "We Are Happy Forever".

Starsky was driven home by Huggy to get some hours of well deserved sleep. The next day Julian and Starsky met at Huggy's and they spoke about the details. Starsky was happy that Julian was going to help them. He knew about the technical equipment of the community and they would need his knowledge.

In the late afternoon Starsky informed Captain Dobey, explained their plan and asked for back-up.

About 10 pm Julian's van approached the community. From the distance they could see two guards. Julian slowed down so Starsky and Huggy could get out of the car. Both men were dressed in black. They disappeared behind the bushes and crept nearer.

Julian stopped the car at the entrance and explained to the men that Mrs. Phorbes had called him to look at the main camera again. It wasn't working correctly after the repair. The men remembered the incident and let him pass.

In the meantime Starsky and Huggy had climbed over the fence out of harm's way and met Julian after the next curve. Huggy was cursing lightly because he wasn't in such good shape and had had difficulties climbing over the fence.

"You did good, Hug," Starsky reassured him and felt his own excitement grow.

He fumbled for the garage key in the pocket of his jeans. He was lucky that Mrs. Phorbes had forgotten about it. The key would lead them into the garage and from there into the main building where all the sleeping rooms were located.

"You ready?" asked Julian, who had stopped in front of the garages and Starsky and Huggy nodded. They tiptoed to the door and Starsky unlocked it with trembling fingers. Julian slipped in first and Starsky whispered: "You really know where the main fuse is?"

"Don't worry. You'll see," answered Julian, and then they were all inside the garage. Julian turned left to a small door and the others followed.

"Shit!" They heard Julian mumble, "This door is locked."

"Let me try," said Starsky and put the garage key into the lock. "Hey presto!" The door opened.

"How lucky we are," mumbled Huggy and looked for his torch.

Julian explained: "I'll pull out the main fuse so it will be very dark everywhere. Starsky, you have to lead the way. I'm locking myself in this room so they can't open the door from the other side. Starsky, the key."

Starsky understood. He gave Julian the key and looked at him. "Thanks..." he said, then turned to Huggy and smiled.

"Come on, let's go!" A moment later it was dark everywhere. Starsky and Huggy felt their way along the walls. Voices were heard, doors were opened, people were going across the hall to find light switches, but it remained dark. Frightened voices became louder, some people panicked. Taking advantage of the confusion, Starsky hurried through the halls, followed by Huggy. His room was a few feet down the hall. They bumped into other running people, but finally Starsky had opened his door and both men slipped in.

Starsky had to adjust his eyes in the darkness. "Hutch?" he whispered and took a few steps to his friend's bed.

"Ken, darling, are you still with me? Won't last too long though."

Starsky was rooted to the spot when he heard the female voice from the other bed. Mary Phorbes!

Huggy felt that that was the woman who was responsible for all the trouble. He had to play a trick on her to lure her away from Hutch.

"Mrs Phorbes? We have problems with the electricity. Can you please come and check it out? My patients are scared. I know you can soothe them." Huggy was speaking in a very high voice, pretending he was a woman. In a normal situation Starsky would have rolled on the floor laughing, but now he waited expectantly to see if the trick was working.

"Oh, I understand. Just a moment. Who are you, by the way?" Mary Phorbes was getting up.

"Nurse Becky, Mrs Phorbes," Huggy whispered and Starsky gave a sigh of relief because of Huggy's good memory.

Mary Phorbes rushed out of the room. Nobody knew how long she would stay absent, so Starsky and Huggy had to hurry. "Good performance, Hug," Starsky said and bent over Hutch who lay motionless on his bed.

"Hey, it's me, I'm back. Wake up, so I can get you out of here," Starsky whispered, but Hutch didn't show any reaction.

"Hutch, come on, can't wait any longer, or do you want to stay with Mary Phorbes?" That name seemed to cause a reaction. Hutch began to move, but frowned when Starsky touched him to help him up.

"Buddy, look at me. Don't fight me!" Starsky took Hutch's hands in his and waited till Hutch had opened his eyes.

"Ssstarsk..." Hutch slurred and for Starsky it was the most beautiful sound he had ever heard. Hutch reached out his arms to embrace Starsky. Huggy assisted in getting Hutch out of the bed. Hutch was clinging to Starsky, so weak, he could hardly stand.

"Help me, Hug, we have to get him out of here. Doesn't matter how."

Both men half carried the blond in the direction of the garage. Mary Phorbes was not in sight, but when they came nearer to the garage door, they heard voices in the room. Men were talking about breaking through the door to reach the main fuse.

Poor Julian. He was still inside and if they found him, he was in trouble.

Starsky decided to use the main entrance to get out of the building. Hutch seemed to be awake now, but he obviously couldn't cope with the strange situation. He knew at least that Starsky was at his side. He leaned against his friend and as a result Starsky had some problems staying upright. Huggy was a great support and the three men made their way out of the building protected by the darkness.

The van waited around the next corner and they made an effort to get Hutch into the car. They were about to look for Julian when a voice came from behind the steering wheel.

"Are you planning to go back or can we get outta this joint?"

"Julian!" both men said in unison, relieved. "How did you come out?" Huggy wanted to know.

"I locked the door and hid the key before I got out. By the way, any of you got a stick of gum? Mine's in the lock. And here's the main fuse if you want a souvenir..."

When Starsky was settled with Hutch in the back, Julian started the car and they headed away from the building. The two guards at the entrance of the property only waved at Julian when the van passed by.

Soon there would be an unpleasant surprise for the community "We Are Happy Forever." Black and white units were already waiting to check the place now that Hutch was safe.

"I think, we should take Hutch to the hospital," said Starsky. He was concerned about Hutch's health. His friend leaned against him, barely coherent. Starsky put his arm around Hutch's shoulder and tried to wake him up with encouraging words. The only reaction Hutch showed was a smile and mumbled words that Starsky couldn't understand.

"Buddy, we're going to get you to a hospital and get you checked out," Starsky said.

Hutch frowned and moved his arms. He tried to pull away from Starsky and opened his eyes slowly.

"Hey, are you with me, pal?" Glassy blue eyes studied Starsky, seemingly unable to believe that his friend was really next to him.

"Mary Phorbes..." Hutch mumbled.

Starsky reassured him: "She'll be arrested very soon. What happened today? Did she give you that junk in the blue glass?"

Hutch frowned again. "Gave me more drinks, said it would be over very soon. Didn't know what she meant by this... Missed you."

"Same with me," Starsky answered and pulled his friend close.

Soon they arrived at the hospital and several doctors took care of Hutch. Starsky contacted Captain Dobey who was still coordinating the action force in "We Are Happy Forever" and brought him up to date on Hutch's condition.

Huggy and Julian tried to convince Starsky to go home for some sleep, but Starsky refused. He fell asleep on one of the plastic chairs in the waiting room, until a kind nurse woke him up in the early morning hours to tell him that Hutch had been given a strong barbiturate the day before. That was the reason he had acted so strangely.

Later a doctor appeared and told Starsky that Hutch would need to be observed for a few more days to determine what kind of drugs were still in his system.

In the meantime Starsky led the interrogations in their first case. Mary Phorbes confessed to testing new drugs on innocent people. She admitted that she had worked together with a pharmaceutical enterprise. But she had never heard of Gunther Enterprises. Dr. Robert Wise had connections to this company. He had started the whole business and they had made a hefty profit.

The problem was that Robert Wise had disappeared. No one knew if he was still in town.

Starsky needed Huggy's help again. After a few days one of Huggy's snitches, who worked at the Bay City airport had some news for Huggy. Somebody had hired a Lear Jet for a flight to Brazil. The description fitted Robert Wise.

Acting on the information, Starsky, along with a handful of uniformed officers and civil servants, headed for the airport.

Late in the evening the civil servants had taken their positions. Starsky was hidden in the Customs office. There were not many passengers left so late in the day. Nothing happened and Starsky feared he had followed the wrong lead.

The crew of the Lear Jet arrived, the pilot and a stewardess approaching. Starsky looked back toward the waiting lounge but no one else was around. He opened the door to have a better look at the pilot and stewardess.

Suddenly he froze. The pilot wore a signet ring on his right ring finger and Starsky knew where he had seen the ring before.

"Robert Wise? Today without your Mercedes?" A startled gaze met Starsky's eyes.

"Hands up. You're under arrest. Ben, read him his rights." Starsky handcuffed the numb man then let Officer Ben take over the procedure.

Their first case was solved. "A piece of cake"? -- Not at all! Hutch had suffered the most. Starsky was still worrying about the drugs that had caused the strange change in Hutch's character. Starsky hurried back to the hospital to tell his friend all about Robert Wise's arrest.

Three weeks later...

"Taddah!" Starsky burst into the hospital room, pushing a wheelchair in front of him.

"Are you ready for real life again?" Starsky beamed at Hutch, who looked disgusted at the wheelchair.

"Are you kidding? I don't use a wheelchair. I can walk alone!" Hutch made a few steps, swayed a little and Starsky caught him and held him, not letting go.

"So far, so good," Starsky chuckled. "Okay, let's do it your way." Taking Hutch's arm they walked slowly through the door till they got to the elevator. Hutch leaned against the wall. Though he felt much better than at the beginning, he still felt weak. The drugs had taken their toll. He was lucky that Starsky had rescued him in time. Otherwise he would have given in to his depression. Many of the other patients had died already...

They had reached Starsky's car and Hutch settled in the passenger seat.

"You know what?" he said pensively, "Without you I never would have made it. Don't know how to say it..."

"Stop it," Starsky said and laid his hand on Hutch's.

"It was our first case and WE solved it. It was very hard for you because you became a victim of the whole crap. But did you remember when you told me about your visions about committing suicide? You gave the answers I needed and helped solve the case."

"Yeah, maybe that's the way it should be. Partners should work together and complement one another," Hutch smiled and squeezed Starsky's hand.

"So we are partners. Always me and..."

"...thee," Hutch finished the sentence and Starsky looked at his friend admiringly.

"Wow, what a quip! Seems that you are the brains of the team... Me and Thee. That's a deal!"


The end


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