A Sentinel - Starsky and Hutch Crossover.
"Wait up, Jim!"
The Sentinel eased his pace and looked over his shoulder. "If you insist, old man."
Blair huffed and pushed his legs harder, shifting his backpack higher. "Funny. You know, hiking ten miles up hill is not my idea of relaxing." He slowed his pace, struggling to steady his breathing. "For someone who eats the kind of junk you do, it's a miracle your arteries let you get this far."
Jim stopped and turned to face his friend. "That should tell you something, shouldn't it? Maybe you should lay off those weird algae shakes and indulge in the good stuff more often." He grinned and looked toward the sky, taking a slow, deep breath. "Come on, Chief. Smell that air. It's a welcome change from Cascade."
"Hey, my algae shakes are good. And we can sit and enjoy the clean air just as well -- better, actually, since our lungs won't be struggling to supply the molecules to the muscles which you insist on overworking..."
Jim feigned a dramatic sigh. "Okay, five-minute breather."
Jim raised his eyebrows. "You must be getting really out of shape, Professor."
Blair glared at the detective, a hint of mirth in his eyes softening the scowl of his brow. He jerked his hand up with the middle finger making a prominent appearance. "Shove it, Ellison."
Laughter spilled from Jim, and he slapped Blair's shoulder. "Okay, you win half-pint."
"I'm warning you, baldy..."
Jim's head tilted and he held up a hand. "Do you hear that?"
Blair rolled his eyes. "What do you think the chances of that are, oh Great Sentinel?"
Jim ignored the comment and turned around, peering over the side of the path. The ground sloped steeply toward a small valley. "It's weird. Like a low hum or vibration. Strange. I can't quite tell if it's a sound or a feeling."
Blair moved reluctantly closer to the edge and peered down to the valley. "No, I don't hear or feel any--"
The ground began to shake. Slowly at first. Alarm registered on Jim's face a second before the rumbling started. It sounded far off, as though it were traveling toward them, then it hit, and the ground revolted.
The tumult threw Jim and Blair off their feet. With a strangled scream, Blair hit the edge of the slope and went into a bouncing roll toward the valley.
Pain thudded at the base of Blair's skull. "Oh man."
A hand lightly touched his shoulder. He opened his eyes -- or thought he did, but impenetrable darkness remained.
"Yeah. You okay?"
Blair struggled to sit, but a restraining hand on his chest held him flat.
"Don't try to move yet. You took a nasty fall. Anything hurt?"
"Just my head. Can you see anything?"
"Nope. There's not even enough light for my eyes."
Blair closed his eyes again and relaxed against the cool earth. "Where are we?"
"We tumbled down the slope, but at some point the ground gave out beneath us. This is an underground cavern, or something."
"There should be some light then from the hole we fell through? Unless..." Blair swallowed and tried to keep his voice even. "Is the opening still there? Do we have a way out?"
"I can't see anything. I don't know. I'd guess not if light's not getting through."
"Oh man." Blair took a deep breath. "We're trapped?"
"Looks like it... Oh no."
"It's starting again."
Jim didn't get the chance to reply. The shaking started, this time accompanied by a mechanical hum and vibration. Soil rained down upon them, and Blair clenched his eyes tight and held his breath, trying not to panic as his heart beat a wild rhythm in his chest.
Fortunately, the quaking died down and the dust settled. Blair's lungs burned, reminding him to start breathing again. Hesitantly, he opened his eyes, relieved beyond measure to be able to see his surroundings. Light was coming from somewhere, caressing the clay walls of the cave.
"You okay, Sandburg?"
Blair looked at the Sentinel. Jim stood in front of one of the walls, his hand resting lightly on the surface. His eyes held Blair's for a moment, waiting for an answer.
"Yeah, Jim. I think so." Carefully, he sat up. "What are you doing?"
"There's something behind this wall, I think. It's humming -- kind of."
"Humming?" With a grunt, Blair shifted his feet beneath him and pushed himself to unsteady feet, the backpack hanging from one shoulder.
"Yeah, I --"
A sudden crack was all the warning they got.
"Watch out!" Jim lunged for Blair, tackling him hard and sending them both to the ground.
The wall collapsed, rock and dirt raining down over them. Seconds later, the chaos subsided, and Blair squirmed beneath his friend's heavy mass.
"I will be as soon as you get off of me. I can't breath."
Immediately, the weight lifted and Blair rolled to his back, looking up at Jim. His eyes shot passed the detective to the unbelievable sight now revealed. "Oh my God."
Jim's brow furrowed curiously, and he turned around, his spine going rigid when he saw it. "What on Earth...?"
Blair swallowed hard. "Jim, man, I'm not sure that thing is from Earth." He rose slowly to his feet, moving past Jim to stand in front of the thing. It looked metallic, rising from the floor to some indefinite point beyond the roof of the make-shift cave and extending beyond the confines of the cave in width. Hieroglyphic-type markings lay etched in the otherwise smooth, luminous surface. They were not Egyptian, of that Blair was certain. They did look vaguely familiar, but he was pretty sure he'd never seen those exact symbols before.
The "metal" itself seemed to give off a soft light, but Blair had no idea what was providing the power for that light. Now that he stood close to the thing, without the buffer of the soil wall, he could sense the hum that Jim had mentioned. It wasn't a sound, exactly, but not a feeling either.
Whatever it was, it was strange. Very strange.
"Oh, man." His heart thudded with excitement. "This is so cool." His right hand rose slowly to the thing, and his fingers brushed over the script. It felt warm, and he thought he could detect a faint vibration. When his fingers passed over a circular, spiral-like symbol, a faint click sounded and part of the metal bulged outward.
Blair jerked his hand back, but overcame his surprise quickly.
"What's that?" Jim asked.
Blair shrugged, leaning closer to inspect the object. It looked like an ordinary grayish stone. Carefully, he touched it.
"Blair, watch --"
Jim's warning was cut off when the thing exploded to life, filling the cave with a blinding light and an agonizing, high-pitched sound.
"Well, another Sunday on the job. You think your theory about how there's no crime on Sundays will hold this time?"
Starsky shrugged, steering the Torino around a corner. His lips twitched upward in a smile. "Hey, it's not my theory. I read it. And, 'sides, it ain't my fault the criminals in this city don't follow the stats. Lunch?"
"Sure, but no grease pits this time."
Starsky pressed on the accelerator and sped through the intersection, beating the yellow light. "'Kay, how 'bout just The Pits, then?"
"Don't you think Huggy's had enough of us this week?"
Starsky flashed a grin at his partner. "Maybe, blondie, but his new waitress hasn't."
Hutch rolled his eyes. "I have yet to figure out which is bigger, Starsk -- your stomach or your libido."
The radio cackled to life. "All units, shots fired at the corner of Sixth and Welbourne. Officer down."
Hutch grabbed the radio. "This is Zebra 3. We are responding."
Light. Sound. Pain. Then darkness.
Some time later, he opened his eyes to a clear, blue sky. The warm solar rays stung his cheeks. His head pounded, and he raised his head just as a high-pitched scream slammed against his eardrums. He winced, the throbbing in his head exploding to agony.
Two quick gunshots blasted to the right, and he jerked into a sitting position, forgetting the pain in his head. Another scream -- a woman. He saw a uniformed police officer laying in an expanding pool of blood on the sidewalk. The vacant black-and-white sedan lay parked at an angle nearby, its driver-side door hanging open while the siren lights revolved lazily.
Blair looked up to see a fair-skinned, balding man grab a frail woman by the arm. He carried a gun in his free hand and took off at a run, dragging the woman behind him as he turned a corner and disappeared.
The red Torino with the blazing white stripe screeched to a halt next to the squad car, the siren cutting off with an indignant wail. Both doors flew open, and the detectives crouched behind them cautiously, scanning the area. A crowd was slowly gathering around the fallen man, his victim's blue uniform slacks visible amidst the onlookers.
Starsky shot to his feet, tucked his gun in its holster, and pushed his way through the spectators. Hutch followed close behind, an audible curse exploding from the younger man when he saw the officer.
Starsk crouched next to the man and felt along his neck for a pulse. Swallowing hard, he looked up at Hutch and shook his head. Anger swelled in his chest, making his jaw tight and his eyes hooded. Slowly, he rose, his eyes floating over the now-silent crowd.
Hutch leaned closer to Starsky, his voice low. "I'll call it in." With a pat on his partner's shoulder, Hutch turned and headed back to the Torino.
"Did anyone see what happened?" Starsky asked the crowd.
A young woman in the front raised her hand. She looked no more than twenty, with chestnut hair and dark, brown eyes. "I... I didn't exactly see what happened. I heard the shots and I looked out the window." She pointed to a small diner across the street. "There was a man running down the sidewalk with a woman. I saw the officer down already. Another man was sitting a few feet away from the officer. He looked kind of dazed and got to his feet -- all shaky and stuff. He stumbled off that way." She pointed in the direction of the squad car. "The same way the man and woman went."
Starsky pulled out his small notebook and patted his jacket pockets for a pen. Coming up empty, he looked up at the woman, an embarrassed smile gracing his face. "Uh..."
A pen appeared in front of his face from another bystander. He snatched it and mumbled a "thanks" then wrote the information on the pad. "Can you describe them?"
The woman shrugged. "I only saw the man and woman from the back. The man was about your height, the woman a couple of inches shorter. The guy had blond, stringy hair and real old clothes, like he'd shopped at a thrift store and then slept in them for three nights. You know what I mean? The woman wasn't much better, dark hair, skinny." She shrugged again. "That's all I can tell you about them."
"What about the other guy?"
"A little bit shorter than you maybe. I'm not sure. Kind of thin, but not scrawny. Long, dark hair pulled back in a ponytail. He had a tan backpack, and he was wearing a black jacket and jeans."
"Oh... Hell." Jim reluctantly opened his eyes.
He saw dirt. In fact, his right cheek was pressed into it. With a moan, he lifted his head and used his left arm to roll himself onto his back. Doing a quick scan of himself, he realized the only thing that hurt was his head. Fortunately, the pain was manageable. Carefully, he sat up, taking a better look at his surroundings.
A paved country road stretched as far as his eyes could see -- which had to be pretty damn far. He was sprawled on the side of the road amidst a cluster of pine trees.
Blair was nowhere to be seen. "Sandburg?" He rose to his feet, extending his hearing. The only sounds he heard were those of various wildlife in the brush.
His partner was nowhere nearby -- at least not alive. His chest tightened, fear rising to his throat. He didn't know where he was or what exactly had happened, but his first priority was finding Blair -- hopefully safe and unharmed.
Blair's head was killing him. He'd stumbled after the duo, vaguely looking for a phone as he kept an eye on where they headed. His years of working with the police had instilled in him a particular sense of duty toward the men in uniform, a concept he would have laughed at before he met Jim.
Not that he'd ever been 'anti-cop,' but as his mother had never been too fond of "the pigs," some of that attitude had rubbed off on him, especially during his adolescence when he'd engaged in protests. He'd been hassled by the cops on more than one occasion during his 'sit-in' and 'tree-hugging' days.
But now he was working with the police -- unofficially partnered to Detective James Ellison. Ironic and a bit scary at times, but he wouldn't change it for anything.
The two suspects soon got far ahead of him, and, finally, he lost them. He did, however, spot a payphone up ahead next to a newsstand. Taking a deep breath as he tried to ignore the pounding in his head, he hurried to the phone.
As he grabbed the receiver, he took a good look around. Where the hell was he, anyway? And what had happened? He remembered going hiking with Jim and... and... falling. They'd fallen into some kind of cave and found a.... something. Then there had been an explosion of light and sound. And then he'd found himself sprawled on an unfamiliar street.
What exactly had happened? He didn't recognize the streets or buildings, and he knew Cascade pretty well. The cop car had been black-and-blue, but Cascade's squad units were mostly blue and white.
He punched the 9 on the phone, then stopped when a headline from one of the nearby newspapers jumped out at him --
Jonestown Cult Commit Mass Suicide
"What the --" Blair dropped the receiver and wandered in a near-daze toward the newspaper. The proprietor of the newsstand gave him a strange look but said nothing.
The headline decorated the front page of the Los Angeles Times. He read the article, confused. Was this a retrospective? Why talk about something that happened over twenty years ago? It wasn't even the anniversary of the tragedy, was it? Jonestown had happened in... uh... 1978, if he remembered correctly. He'd been about 9 years old at the time. His eyes skimmed over the first paragraph.
Four hundred and eight American citizens committed suicide yesterday at a
communal village they'd built in the jungle in Northwest Guyana. The community has come to be known as Jonestown. The dead were all members of a group known as The Peoples Temple which was led by the Reverend Jim Jones.
Blair's brow furrowed. Yesterday? His eyes darted to the issue date of the paper, and he gasped.
November 19, 1978.
A somber mood filled the Torino as the two detectives headed back to the station to get started on the paperwork for the shooting. A newscaster's disembodied voice floated faintly from the speakers, talking about traffic... then sports... then news.
When Starsky heard the word "Jonestown," he stiffened, his fingers gripping the steering wheel more tightly. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Hutch throw a concerned look his way.
Starsky cleared his throat, keeping his eyes on the road ahead. "What are you looking like that for?"
Hutch looked out the window. "Nothing. Sorry."
Starsky felt a twinge in his chest. Had he snapped? He'd thought he'd sounded casual enough, but Hutch's reaction told him maybe his question had come out a bit too harshly.
"S'okay, buddy. If you're thinking what I think you're thinking, stop thinking it. Marcus and his groupies are long gone, and just 'cause there are other crazies out there making cults don't mean nothing to me." He glanced over at Hutch, surprised to meet the concerned blue eyes. He'd expected Hutch to still be glancing out the window. It was a lot easier for him to do the bravado stuff if he didn't have to look into those eyes...
Hutch smiled slightly and nodded. "Okay, partner. I know that."
"I hardly even think about it, anymore."
"Okay." Hutch looked back out the window. "Hey, we never did get lunch. You wanna stop on the way to the station?"
Starsky frowned. Seeing a dead cop and then hearing more about the Jonestown stuff had driven his appetite away. "Sure, if you want."
"Shit." Blair was hurting. His head seemed ready to explode, driving most rational thought from his brain. He needed pain killers and a place to sleep before anything else. He couldn't think until he got rid of the pounding headache.
Squinting against the bright daylight, he stumbled into a drugstore and headed for the health aisle. Excedrin Migraine -- that's what he needed. Although he didn't normally like to take drugs, right now he'd shoot himself to stop the pain, so he figured popping a few pills would be somewhat healthier.
He searched for the familiar red and black box, but didn't see it. His headache screamed, and he rubbed a hand over his face and then resumed his search. He spotted something labeled Excedrin Extra Strength -- which he knew was identical to Excedrin Migraine -- but in a container he didn't recognize. Impatient, he grabbed it and turned toward the front of the store.
A wave of dizziness washed over him, and he stumbled a couple of steps backward, nearly colliding with a display of maxipads. Reaching out, he steadied himself on the shelf and closed his eyes, taking several slow, deep breaths. The backpack weighed heavy on his shoulders, and he vaguely tried to remember what he'd packed, but the pain prevented him from focusing.
He opened his eyes and headed for the counter, reaching into his back pocket to retrieve his wallet. Fortunately, there was no one in line, so he stepped right up to the cashier and slapped the box on the counter, then pulled out a twenty dollar bill.
He barely looked at the cashier, noting only that it was a dark-haired man -- until the guy slammed the bill back on the counter and leaned forward.
"Look, mister, what are you trying to pull? I don't take no play money!"
Blair winced at the loudness of the cashier's voice, raising one hand to rub at his temple. "Huh?"
The cashier grabbed the twenty and waved it in front of his face. "This! Now, you got something in there that's real, or dontcha?"
Blair squinted at the money. It was one of the newer twenty dollar bills with the off-centered face. The man had obviously never seen it before.
God, could it really be 1978?
Too exhausted to think, he simply grabbed the twenty, stuffed it back in his wallet, and pulled out an older five dollar bill with a traditionally-centered face.
The guy mumbled something, took the money, and then handed over a heap of change. Blair frowned, figuring the guy must have thought he'd been handed a ten, but was too tired and in too much pain to even attempt to correct the error. He didn't even glance at the money as he stuffed it in his billfold and returned the wallet to his pocket.
Jim managed to focus through the pain enough to lower the dial on the headache, but the throbbing still persisted in the background. For the moment, he ignored it and yanked his cell phone out of his jacket pocket. He punched the POWER button, but his jaw clenched when he read the "NO SIGNAL" message.
With a sigh, he shut off the phone and tucked it back in his pocket, then began a slow and weary trek down the road toward what he hoped would end up being civilization.
Hours later, after typing up their respective reports, Starsky and Hutch hit the streets again. They didn't have much to go on except for three vague descriptions, so they decided to canvas the area and see what they could find.
After speaking with local shop owners in the vicinity with no luck, they finally extended their inquiries to neighboring streets. They found a lead with a newstand proprietor.
Starsky held the pen poised over the pad. "Okay, Mr. Mallie, I've got him down as late twenties, medium height, medium build, with long, dark hair, and a tan backpack." He scribbled the information. "That right?"
"Yes." The proprietor nodded. He was a short, balding man in his fifties. "I noticed him because he looked kind of strange. He staggered up almost like he was drunk, then headed for the phone, but he never completed his call. He just let the receiver drop and then stared at the newspaper." He pointed to the Los Angeles Times. "His clothes were dirty, too, and he looked a bit rough around the edges."
Hutch casually inspected the items proffered in the newstand. "Which way did he go?"
Mr. Mallie pointed east. "That way. He stepped into the drugstore across the street."
Starsky noted that information on his pad and then walked over to the phone, peering at the receiver. "Has anyone used this phone since him?"
"Uh, yeah." The proprietor shrugged. "Lots of people."
Starsky sighed. "Great." Officer Polaski, he'd discovered, had been the fallen officer. He'd had a wife and a young daughter. They needed to get some leads on the suspects. He wouldn't let them get away with killing a brother in blue.
Hutch placed a gentle hand on Starsky's shoulder, and Starsky almost smiled. His partner always could read him.
"Thank you, Mr. Mallie." Starsky closed his notebook and slid it into his jacket pocket. He glanced at Hutch. "Let's go check out the drugstore, buddy."
Blair swayed, grabbing onto the counter for support. The clerk looked up at him, apparently unfazed by Blair's condition. His reaction said a lot about the quality of the motel's regular clientele.
Blair took out his wallet. "A room, please."
"Single or double?"
"Pay up front."
Blair withdrew the $100 dollar bill he always kept in his wallet. Since the twenty was useless, the hundred was all he had to work with.
"One night for now."
The clerk's eyes lit up as he took the hundred. "Sure thing, sir."
Starsky, once again with notepad in hand and a borrowed pen, leaned on the counter as he took the clerk's unofficial statement. "And how long ago was this?"
"A couple of hours, I guess."
"And the twenty dollar bill -- you're sure it was counterfeit?"
The clerk barked a laugh. "Yeah, I'm sure. It looked like play money. Wasn't even close to the real thing. I was kinda reluctant to take the five, but I don't get paid enough to play with trouble, you know? And the guy definitely looked like trouble."
"Why do you say that?"
"He was squinting like he was hurtin'. Looked like maybe he'd been in a fight, too, or something. Who knows what he was on, but I just wanted him out."
"What did he buy?"
"The guy -- What did he buy here?"
"Oh. A bottle of Excedrin, I think."
The clerk nodded. "Yeah. So, uh, what'd he do?"
Starsky and Hutch exchanged glances. Then Starsky flipped the notepad closed leaned back. "Right now we just want to question him about a shooting."
"Shooting?" The clerk's eyebrows rose. "You think he had a g--?"
Starsky interrupted the clerk. "Did you happen to see which way he went?"
"Not really. I think he turned right when he headed out the doors."
Hutch moved away from the counter. "Thank you, sir. You've been most helpful."
Jim finally made it to the outskirts of the city. His first stop was a payphone at a small gas station. Stepping into the booth, he fished in his jean pocket for some change, prepared to deposit thirty-five cents. He felt for a quarter and a dime, but then spotted the "10 cents" displayed prominently next to the coin slot.
Ten cents? He shrugged and withdrew a dime, then slid the coin into the slot. He could barely remember the last time he'd only had to use a dime at a payphone.
First, he dialed Blair's cell phone number, using the area code since they had gone hiking outside of Cascade. A voice came on the line and informed him he did not have enough money for the long distance call. That didn't surprise him, so he fished out seventy five cents worth of change -- just to play it safe -- and deposited the money, then tried again.
This time, the line rang and a woman answered. "First National Bank. This is Deborah speaking. How may I help you?"
He frowned. "Excuse me? Is this 555-3432?"
"Yes it is."
"Uh... Sorry, I guess I have the wrong number."
"No problem, sir."
Jim hung up the receiver, his brow lined with confusion. He pulled out his wallet and withdrew his calling card, then tried a call to Major Crime. This time the operator's voice told him he'd made an error.
Frustrated, he slammed the receiver on the cradle and scrubbed a hand over his face. This was getting ridiculous.
Okay, collect. Can't go wrong there. Taking a deep breath, he once again grabbed the receiver and, this time, dialed the operator and placed a collect call to Simon's direct office line.
He listened as the operator dialed the number, but it came back as having been disconnected..
"I'm sorry, sir," the operator said. "Are you sure you have the number correct?'
Jim sighed. "Yes, I'm sure. Thank you." He hung up the receiver.
What the hell is going on here?
He had only one other thing to try. 911. Quickly, he punched in the numbers. The line remained silent for several long seconds. Then it rang. After two rings, an operator answered.
"Operator. Can I help you?"
Jim looked heavenward. What was with this telephone? How could 911 not work? Still, at least he now had a live person on the line who could help him. Finally! "This is Detective James Ellison with the Cascade Police Department. I was hiking with a companion near Bolder Path outside of Cascade. The phone I'm dialing from is...." He looked at the number above the hook and nearly dropped the phone. The area code was one he didn't recognize.
Just where the hell am I?
Frowning, he rattled off the number, his brain straying from the conversation as he tried to make sense of his situation.
"Are you injured?"
"Uh... I'm not sure. I don't think so. My head hurts, though. Look, can you just send a unit out here? I'm not sure what's happened, but my companion is missing. We were hiking and there was an earthquake. We took a tumble down..."
"Sir, there have been no earthquakes in this area."
Jim's frustration grew, and his headache flared a few notches higher. "Look, I don't know what happened. Earthquake or not, there was a shaking and we took a tumble. The ground caved in... " He paused, struggling to remember the details. "I'm not sure what happened after that. There was some kind of an explosion... I think... Maybe." He shook his head and leaned against the booth. "I'm not sure, exactly. But, look, I was hiking with a friend, and he's now missing."
"Okay, sir, I have your location. Just stay there and I'll send help out right away."
Oh thank you, God. Blair collapsed hard on to the saggy motel mattress. The impact kicked his headache into high gear, and, with a groan, he rolled onto his side and curled into a ball, trying to find a handle against the pain and nausea.
He needed to call someone. But in a minute. He just needed a minute to rest and give the pills a chance to do their stuff.
"Well, what next?" Starsky slid behind the wheel.
Hutch closed his door and looked at his watch. "Well, we're officially off-duty in ten minutes."
Starsky started the engine. "Yeah, but if we're gonna track this guy, the sooner the better. By mornin' his trail could be cold."
"How 'bout we head on over to Huggy's for a bite and some information."
"Sounds good to me, partner."
Huggy Bear set a plate of hamburger and fries in front of Starsky and a chicken sandwich in front of Hutch. "So what can I do for you, gentlemen?"
Starsky grabbed the ketchup bottle and tried to untwist the cap, grunting slightly as it initially resisted his efforts. "Just... uh..." the cap gave with an audible pop. "There was a shooting on Welbourne today. A cop got hit."
Huggy nodded and plopped into the vacant chair. "Yeah, I heard."
Hutch leaned over his plate, his eyes focused on the eccentric black man. "Know anything about it?"
"Hey, man, I just heard, that's all. I don't know who did what."
Starsky munched on his fries. "You know a guy about medium build 'n height with cuwy, dark, lnnng hair? Wearin' a black 'acket and carrying a tan backpack. Late twenties, caucasian."
Huggy shook his head. "Nope. Nobody comes to mind off-hand."
Hutch rolled his eyes. "Don't talk with your mouth full, Starsk."
The older detective straightened indignantly. "Hey, Hugs understood me."
Huggy chuckled and slapped a hand on Starsky's arm. "That I did, my man, but only because I'm used to your mumblings by now."
"That may be, but I don't like to see your food in its initial stages of digestion."
Starsky smiled and popped a fry in his mouth. "It's all part of nature's circle. I thought you were into that stuff. From the plate, to the mouth, through the --"
"Thank you very much," Hutch interrupted. "I understand the process just fine. I just don't want to have to watch it while I'm trying to eat."
Starsky tossed one of his french fries at Hutch, then quickly turned back to Huggy, ignoring his partner's mumbled threats. "How 'bout a man and a woman? Guy has stringy, blond hair. Scrawny. The woman is thin with dark hair."
Huggy shook his head. "Hell, that could be half the people in this town."
Hutch nodded, frustration showing in his eyes. "I know."
"Well, Huggy, if you see any of them, will you let us know?" Starsky asked.
"Sure thing, as long as you leave me a nice tip." He rose from the table. "Now, if you'll excuse me, gentlemen, I'll be getting back to my entrepreneurial duties."
Blair woke some time later. The room lay in a shroud of darkness, and he searched for the clock on his nightstand. When he didn't find it, he sat up, awakening the headache in his skull. He winced, and memory returned suddenly. He wasn't in his room at the loft. He was in a motel room, in a strange place, maybe even a strange time. If he could just get his brain around that concept....
Fortunately, the pain remained at a low, tolerable level. The Excedrin must have done something, but it obviously hadn't been enough to kick the thing. He'd take two more and hope for the best. At least he didn't feel sick to his stomach, anymore.
"There must be a light here somewhere," he mumbled, his voice thick and drowsy.
With a groan, he rose to his feet and moved slowly toward where he remembered the door being. It was amazing how dark it could get in a hotel room. The thick curtains obviously were meant for privacy.
He bumped into the wall and came to an abrupt halt. Reaching out with his hands, he felt for and found the light switch. When he hit it, light immediately flooded the room, stinging his eyes and making him wince.
He spotted the phone on a small bureau next to the bed. He shuffled over to it, pains in his back and ribs making themselves known. He hadn't felt anything but the headache before, but now, after a dose of headache pills and a few hours of sleep, stiff, sore muscles were making themselves known. He wondered if he'd hurt anything in his tumble down the mountainside.
Easing himself on the mattress, he picked up the receiver and dialed Jim's cell phone number. After two rings, an unfamiliar male voice answered.
"Who is this?'
"Uh... sorry, wrong number." He slammed the receiver on the cradle. Okay, Jim's cell phone number isn't his cell phone number. That was another fact he filed away to help his brain come to terms with the idea that he just might not be in his own decade.
One more try. He picked up the phone and dialed the loft. If it was 1999, the machine should answer. If it was 1978....
After two rings, a woman answered, her voice breathless. "Hello?"
Blair closed his eyes. "Wrong number. Sorry."
Damn. He hung up the phone and rested his head in his hands. What the hell was he going to do? Well, think of something. He opened his eyes and scanned the room idly, and his gaze rested on the television. It was a small, older model, perched on top of the bureau. He looked around, but didn't see a remote. Rising from the bed, he switched on the television and flipped through the channels until he found a news station.
Sinking back on the bed, he listened as the reporters described the current events... Jonestown. Inflation. Upcoming local Thanksgiving ceremonies and celebrations.
And a shooting. The blonde reporter, her hair straight and hanging to her shoulders, stared somberly at the camera as she finished her report on the incident. "Officer Polaski left behind a wife and young daughter. Police are still investigating the shooting, but are on the lookout for three persons spotted at the scene of the crime...."
Blair sat in stunned silence as he listened to the descriptions and realized he was, in fact, a suspect.
Great. He swallowed hard and fell back on the mattress, closing his eyes. What now?
Jim sat in the open back of the ambulance, his head propped against the wall as he tried to stay focused on the conversation with the search and rescue coordinator.
"You sure you can't give us a better time estimate?"
Jim sighed. "I told you. I was unconscious for awhile." He raised his wrist. "My watch got smashed in the fall. It stopped at one-thirty."
"It's about seven, now. I guess that's what we'll have to go with."
Jim leaned forward. "I'm coming with you."
The rescuer shook his head. "No, sir, you --"
"Detective. James Ellison. Cascade P.D."
"We checked that out already. Cascade P.D. has no record of you or Blair Sandburg."
Jim suppressed the urge to hit something. Instead, he yanked out his badge. "It's right here, see? And that gun you confiscated is my duty weapon. And this --" He pulled out his license, "is my I.D. Now --"
"Wait a minute..." The rescuer peered at the license. "What are you trying to pull here? That's a fake I.D. if I ever saw one. And, according to the birthdate, you're not even old enough to vote yet."
Jim straightened. "What the hell are you talking about? It says 1962. Can't you add?"
"Yes, I can. It's now 1978. That makes you sixteen according to your I.D."
Jim's jaw went slack. "What?"
"Look, Mister --"
"Detective James Ellison." A flare of anger tightened Jim's chest. He was rapidly loosing patience. He didn't know what the hell was going on, but if he didn't get some answers soon, he'd pop someone.
"Yeah, sure. Look, if you and your friend were getting high on something out here --"
Jim had two fistfuls of the man's shirt in his hands. "Listen you --"
"Back off!" Hands grabbed him, prying his fingers open, and he finally released his grip.
Jim looked at one of the men holding him, and he forced himself calm. In a low, even voice, he asked. "What's the date today?"
The young man answered without hesitation. "November 19."
"Uh...." His brow furrowed, and he glanced uncertainly at the other men. "It's 1978, sir."
The breath left Jim's lungs suddenly, shock making his hands cold. "1978?"
"Yes, sir. Uh, why don't you just get on the stretcher? We'll take you down to the hospital and get your head looked at. You probably banged it up pretty good in the fall."
"Yeah." Jim nodded absently. Whatever was going on, he needed to play it cool or else he'd end up either in a padded room or a jail cell, and he couldn't afford risking that, not with Sandburg missing.
"Will you be careful? You're getting coffee on my seat!"
Hutch threw a glare at Starsky from the passenger seat. "Well, if you wouldn't drive like this car was a go-cart, maybe I'd be able to drink this without getting drenched."
"You couldn't wait 'til you got home for another cup of coffee? You have any idea how hard coffee stains are to get out?"
"Fine!" Hutch guzzled the last of the warm liquid then tossed the cup in the backseat.
"Hey!" Starsky slammed on his breaks at a red light, twisting to peer at into the back seat. "Look at that. Why you gotta make a mess in my car?"
"Your car's already a mess back there."
"Because of you!"
"Well, we could drive my car more often."
Starsky straightened in his seat. "Not a chance. We'd never catch any of the bad guys in your junk heap. Not to mention what being seen in that disaster would do to my image."
"Zebra three come in."
Hutch grabbed the radio. "This is Zebra 3."
"Captain Dobey requests you return to base."
Starsky groaned. "We're off-duty!"
Hutch pressed the button and replied in a more professional tone. "Ten-Four. We are returning to base."
"Okay, Captain, what's this about?" Starsky fidgeted impatiently in front of Dobey's desk. "It's Sunday. We been on all day. It couldn't wait 'til morning?"
Dobey rose from his seat. "No, it couldn't wait until morning!"
He tossed a file at Starsky, who caught it deftly against his chest. Hutch remained wisely quiet in the background.
Dobey sank back to his chair. "Some guy called in off of Route 15 earlier today. Says he was hiking with a friend and took a tumble. He described his missing friend as a caucasian male in his late twenties with long, dark hair, wearing jeans and a black jacket and carrying a tan backpack. Sound familiar?"
Hutch straightened. "That's one of our suspects."
Starsky opened the report and skimmed through it. "Blair Sandburg." He looked up. "That's the name of the guy we're looking for?"
Dobey nodded. "Possibly."
Hutch peered over Starsky shoulder at the file. "Uh... Wait a minute, though. This area of Route 15 is quite a ways from the crime scene. According to the time frame reported here, the guy shouldn't have been at the crime scene this morning. According to this, he was hiking with his friend at that time." He reached over Starsky and flipped the page. "This Jim Ellison guy says his watch got smashed and stopped at one-thirty, hours after the shooting." He looked up at the captain. "This can't be our guy."
"Maybe, but that's not all that's strange about this. Turn to the next page."
Starsky complied, his eyes skimming over the page. "Says he had a gun, a fake ID with a bad date, a fake badge, and some weird gadget on him."
"He claims it's a phone, but it looks more like something out of Star Trek. And Cascade P.D. never heard of him or his friend, Blair Sandburg. We even called Rainier University where this Sandburg guy is supposedly working on his PhD, but, again, they haven't heard of him. Anyway, he's in the hospital now, getting his head checked out. Apparently, he's changed his story a bit since they brought him up. Now he claims he hit his head pretty hard in the fall and just got confused about certain things. But, other than that, he's not talking."
The phone rang, and the captain snatched it up. "Captain Dobey here...." His brow furrowed, and he shot out of his chair. "Well how the hell did that happen?! How long ago?... Damnit! Hold on a minute!" He looked up at Starsky and Hutch. "Ellison's turned up missing. Seems he escaped from the hospital. He knocked out the cop on duty and stole his gun.."
Blair woke up hungry, the buzz of voices filling the small room. He'd fallen asleep with the lights and television on, and, again, it took him a couple of seconds to remember where he was and what had happened.
He sat up and pulled his watch from his pocket, then realized that it was probably wrong about the time. He glanced at it anyway and saw that it had stopped at one forty-five. With a sigh, he stuffed it back in his pocket and rose slowly to his feet.
His headache, at least, was gone. His back felt a bit stiff, but he didn't think it would get much worse. All things considered, he felt like he was in pretty good shape now that his head no longer pounded.
First on his list was food. He shuffled to the window and pulled back the drape. It was dark outside, but that's all he could tell about the time. Still, there were always 24-hour places in these type of cities. Maybe he could find a Denny's and grab a hamburger. He'd eat anything at this point.
Moving to the bureau, he tried the top drawer and found a phone book. Yanking it out, he plopped on the bed and rifled through the RESTAURANTS section. His eyes found a listing for THE PITS, an oddly named restaurant, but the address told him it was just a few blocks away, on the same street as the hotel. Located beneath the name, the ad read "Open Late."
Perfect. He still had no idea what was going on, but he couldn't dismiss the fact that he'd witnessed a cop's murder and was now a suspect.
He couldn't let himself be grabbed by the cops -- at least not until he figured out what was going on. Was he really in 1978? If so, the only explanation that made sense had to involve that thing he and Jim had found in the cave. But, where was Jim now, and how the hell could he get back to his own time?
He had no answers, but he could start by grabbing a bite to eat -- once he did something about his appearance.
Blair stopped in front of the entrance to The Pits, eyeing the run-down squarish structure apprehensively. His stomach growled, as if in reminder, and he adjusted the furry cap on his head, making sure the ear flaps were in place. Jim always laughed at him when he wore the hat, but it kept him warm through Cascade's chilly winters. Right now, he couldn't care less how he looked in it, as long as it hid his hair, which he'd pulled back in a tighter ponytail and stuffed beneath the hat. He was thankful beyond measure that he'd tossed the hat in his backpack before heading out on the trail with Jim.
He'd left his jacket back at the hotel since he'd been wearing it at he crime scene. The night wasn't that cold, which told him for sure that he wasn't in Cascade. The phone book back at the hotel had been for Bay City, but he'd never heard of the place. However, most of the car license plates he'd seen were from California, so he guessed he was somewhere in the Golden state.
He walked into the dimly-lit establishment and noted the well-stocked bar. A scrawny black man stood behind the counter. He was hard to miss dressed in a tacky hat, a blue vest over top a fluffy, white shirt, and a bright orange scarf. Blair's eyebrows rose to his hairline. Either the bartender was blind or this really was the 1970s.
Suppressing a snicker, Blair headed for a small booth located in a far, inconspicuous corner. He'd give his order to a waitress and then just sit back and do what he did best -- observe.
Blair finally left when the place closed, reluctant to go back to his lonely hotel room. He's spent the hours sitting in the booth, sipping slowly at beer after beer, trying not to let the knot of fear about his circumstances consume him. At the very least, he was now positive he really was in 1978. Half the customers in The Pits had been wearing bell bottoms, and, now, as he hailed a cab to go back to his motel room, he studied the passing vehicles. All the models were of the 70s and earlier, and he'd even seen a Yugo.
A Yugo. Man, he'd forgotten those things had ever even existed.
Jim Ellison woke to a bright day. Birds chirped overhead amidst the canopy of leaves. It took his sleep-muddied brain only a second to remember where he was, and he shot to his feet.
He'd returned to the area in which he'd woken up to search for Sandburg under the cover of darkness. If any cops or rescuers remained in the area, his Sentinel senses would give him a huge advantage in evading them before they got anywhere near him.
Fortunately, they'd all apparently gone home because he'd encountered no one -- not even Sandburg. He'd spent almost the entire night searching, but he hadn't so much as found a clue to his partner's whereabouts.
He tried to suppress the knot of frustration and fear in his gut and told himself that, at least, he hadn't found Sandburg's dead body.
But the thought occurred to him that maybe the rescuers had beat him to it. Maybe he hadn't found anything because they already had.
Blair walked into the public library. He'd spent the morning shopping. Although he knew he needed to conserve his dwindling cash supply, he also needed to change his appearance. So, he'd purchased some cheap, used clothes, a wig, and an old, denim backpack at the thrift store.
He thought he looked ridiculous in the curly blond wig, but it was the only thing he could find that didn't look like a wig when he wore it. It gave him a somewhat Einstein-like appearance, especially since he'd put on his glasses.
Jim would bust a gut if he saw me now. A pang twisted in his chest at the thought of his partner, but since he had no idea where Jim was -- or even what decade he might be in -- he could only hope the Sentinel was okay.
His laptop weighed heavily in the backpack, and Blair shifted the burden on his shoulders as he walked up to the counter. A young red-headed woman stood behind the counter, her head down as she skimmed over some papers.
"Excuse me, Ma'am?" He spotted the morning paper on a desk behind her and paled when he saw the headline about the officer's death.
She looked up at him with a smile. "Yes?"
Tearing his eyes away from the newspaper, he managed a smile. "Can you tell me where the anthropology books are? Or ancient language? Hieroglyphics? Mythology? That sort of thing."
"Sure. All the social science type stuff is on the second floor at the east end of the building."
He spun around and hurried to the stairs, eager to get started on his research. He also intended to locate a copy of that paper to find out whether the police were still looking for someone matching his description as a possible suspect and whether they had located the other two spotted at the scene.
Huggy snatched up the phone as he continued to wipe the counter. "You have reached The Pits, the finest establishment --"
"Hey, Biggs, my man. What can I do for you?"
"Nothing. It's what I can do for you."
Huggy dropped the rag on the counter and leaned against the wood. "Yeah? I'm all ears."
"I have some information for you about that cop-killer."
"Is it worth some money to you from those two cops... uh... "
"Starsky and Hutch. Yeah?"
"Will this square us? You and me?"
Huggy sighed. "Yeah, okay. Even Stephen, my man. Now give."
"A guy checked in here yesterday. Could be him. I read about it in the paper this morning, guy matches the description. Checked in with a hundred dollar bill."
Huggy smiled. "What room?"
"Thanks, Biggs. Gotta go." Huggy hung up the phone, then dialed the police station.
"You know, I just don't understand how a cop can be shot in broad daylight and we end up with nothing." Starsky slapped the desk half-heartedly, his shoulders slumped with fatigue. "We got squat. Two useless descriptions of possibles and one description of someone who ain't turning up."
Hutch looked up from the typewriter where he was working on finishing a report. "Yeah, well, a cop gets killed and the only people who care about it are other cops. We're not exactly popular on the street unless we're waving green around, Starsk."
"Yeah, well, we better hit the bank because I want these punks."
Hutch grabbed the phone. "Hutchinson here...."
His eyes shot to Starsky as he listened to the caller. "Yeah... Yeah... Got it."
He snatched a loose pen from the desk and quickly scribbled the information on the nearest
paper he could find. "Thanks, Huggy. Consider the check in the mail." Slamming
the receiver down, he shot to his feet. "Come on, Starsk. Huggy just got a tip from a
motel clerk about our guy."
Jim leaned forward to adjust the scanner and bumped his head on the roof of the VW bug.
He hated the car, but it was the only thing he could afford at the moment, and he needed transportation. He'd had $200 in his wallet, and, thankfully, they'd left it with his clothes back at the hospital, so he'd had no trouble reconfiscating it. The VW bug had cost him $60, and that, more than anything, told him he was really in 1978. How else would he find a $60 car that ran? Okay, so it didn't run well, but it ran. Unfortunately, it tended to stall when stopped at lights and signs, and it had no backseat, no radio, no air conditioning, and the passenger door was crumpled.
It was also too damn small. He felt like a large sardine stuffed in a very tiny can.
The cackle of the police band scanner drew his attention from his car woes. He'd spent another $40 on the equipment, but it was well worth it. He needed to find Sandburg while avoiding the police, and this would give him the edge he needed.
"All units, A.P.B is still in effect for possible suspect/witness to shooting, possibly known as Blair Sandburg.. Caucasian male, late twenties, long, dark hair. Last seen dressed in a black jacket and carrying a tan backpack."
Jim stiffened. His head smacked the roof again. "Damn!" Gingerly, he rubbed at the sore spot as he listened to the information repeat, his stomach churning anxiously. How the hell had Blair become a suspect in a shooting?
A few minutes later a message came in from "Zebra 3." Jim again heard Sandburg's name mentioned, along with a location, and he started the engine. It sputtered as he shifted to first, then evened out as he gunned it into second and barely made the light at the intersection.
Blair set the book carefully on the bed. He hated having to steal from a public library, but he needed the book, and he wanted to be able to use his laptop in conjunction with the text -- something he couldn't do in public since personal computers were still only a dream.
The machine purred quietly on the mattress, and he opened his ARTICLES folder. He itched to get on the internet, but that, too, was still years away. Fortunately, his subscriptions to various journals almost all came with internet access, and he had made it a habit to download articles of interest and save them to his hard drive.
He'd never suspected such a habit would end up serving him so vitally. He turned to the page in the book where he'd found the symbol -- the same circular, spiral-like symbol he'd seen on that thing in the cave. His heart thudded excitedly in his chest, and he shifted to face the laptop screen, his fingers flying over the keyboard.
He had several alphabets from various cultures all over the world stored in his laptop, but he'd have to search through them individually to see if he could spot a similar symbol. He was pretty sure none of the languages he was familiar with used such a symbol, and the book he'd found it in was a mythology book, of all things.
But many myths had roots in fact.
This particular myth came from a primitive village in Bali about nightwalkers who wandered the land at night searching for something. It was a tale parents used to keep their children from wandering too far after sunset, because the nightwalkers, while they kept to themselves, would not hesitate to kill anyone who stood in their paths.
According the the story, each nightwalker wore a medallion around his or her neck that looked very much like the symbol Blair had seen in the cave. However, he didn't see any way the story could help him in his current predicament.
Knock! Knock! "Police! Open up!"
Blair jumped at the sudden pounding, his heart kicking into overdrive. How the hell had they found him? He slammed the laptop closed and looked toward the window, rising to his feet.
That's as far as he got before the door burst inward, the frame splintering. Two figures flew through the doorway, one in a low crouch and the other high, both with guns held firmly in front of them.
The dark-haired man who'd gone low rose slowly to his feet, his gun trained on Blair. His partner, a blonde man, let the barrel of his gun drift toward the floor as he took a look around the room.
The dark-haired one jabbed his chin toward Blair. "Hands up and don't move!"
Blair complied instantly. "What's going on here? You got a warrant?"
The blonde man pulled a badge from his jacket. "I'm Detective Hutchinson and my partner here is Detective Starsky." He moved over to the bed, his eyes falling to the open book and the closed laptop. "We'd like to ask you a few questions."
"I asked you if you've got a warrant. You can't just burst in here like this."
Hutch raised his eyebrow and looked to his partner. "Warrant do we need a warrant?"
Starsky shook his head, his gun never wavering. "Nope. Not unless he has something to hide." Starsky met Blair's gaze. "Do you have something to hide?"
Blair swallowed nervously, keeping his hands high. "You have no right to be here. I want you to leave now."
Hutch moved closer to the bed, stooping to pick up the laptop. "What's this?"
Blair intercepted, grabbing the computer before Hutch could get a look at the machine. All he needed was a futuristic piece of technology falling into 1978 hands to disrupt the time-space continuum, or whatever time-space thing got disrupted in the movies when stuff like that happened.
As soon as his hands closed around the computer, a force tackled him from behind and slammed him face first into the wall. Hands patted him down, conducting a quick but thorough search of his body and clothes. Then a hand grabbed his wrist and painfully twisted his right arm up and back. A cry escaped his throat, and he pressed himself harder into the wall to ease the pressure on his elbow and shoulder.
"I said don't move, punk."
Blair managed a reply through clenched teeth. "Stop it, please. You're gonna break my arm!"
The pressure on his arm eased, but Starsky still kept him in a firm hold. "Where were you yesterday morning at about nine-thirty?"
Blair closed his eyes, his legs suddenly weak. "I don't have to tell you anything. I know my rights. And I know you have no right to knock down my door and search this place."
Hutch grabbed the laptop, and Blair tensed, his eyes tracking the detective.
"I asked you what this was." He hefted the item dangerously, then shook it, dislodging the ac adapter.
Blair took a deep, calming breath. "Please put it down. It's very delicate."
Hutch smiled. "Okay." He tossed the item on the bed, and it bounced a few times, then slid off the edge and hit the floor.
Blair winced, praying the machine hadn't been damaged.
"Oops." Hutch shrugged, then grabbed the book, feigning interest in the contents. "Interesting reading." He looked up at Blair. "You wouldn't happen to know a man and a woman, would you? The guy has blonde hair, the woman dark. They were both seen running, along with you, from the scene of a shooting yesterday." Hutch walked around the bed, peered down at the floor, then stooped and came up with Blair's tan backpack. "You were seen carrying this." He smiled and dropped the pack to the floor, then returned his attention to the book.
"I told you to get out of here! I don't have to tell you anything, and you broke in here illegally."
Hutch ignored Blair's outburst as he leafed casually through the pages. "Oh this is very interesting." His fingers grabbed a corner of one page and ripped it out violently. "Oops!" Crumbling the paper in his fist, he looked up at Blair and let the rolled ball fall to the floor. "Clumsy me."
Blair swallowed, struggling to keep his voice steady. He needed the information in that book if he had any hope of getting home. "Please don't... That's... That's a library book. I have to return it."
Hutch looked to the inside cover. "Oh. So it is." With a sigh, he tossed it back on the bed, then looked at Starsky. "Why don't we invite our friend here down to the station where we can continue this conversation?"
Starsky nodded. "Yeah, and maybe he can tell us about a man named James Ellison."
Blair tensed, his heart leaping to his throat. "What?"
"James Ellison," Starsky explained, his voice flat. "You know him?"
"Uh..." Blair swallowed, his mouth suddenly dry. He desperately wanted to know what they knew about Jim -- and how they knew it -- but since he didn't know what situation his friend was in, he didn't want to risk saying the wrong thing. He battled with the conflict for a few seconds, but, finally, his need to know about Jim won. "Yes, he's a friend of mine. What's happened?"
Starsky ignored the question. "How long have you known him?"
"A few years. Why do you ask? Is he okay?"
A third voice answered. "I'm fine, Chief."
Starsky and Hutch spun around, their guns poised. Blair almost collapsed when released, but the wall held him upright. Slowly, he turned around to see Jim standing in the doorway, his gun trained on Hutch.
Relief washed over Blair, and he smiled, his eyes stinging at the welcome sight of his friend alive and unharmed. "Jim, man, am I glad to see you." Absently, he rubbed the arm Starsky had twisted.
Jim raised an eyebrow, but his eyes never wavered from Hutch. "Same here, Chief. You want to get your stuff so we can get out of here?"
"You get no argument from me, man." Blair cast an uncertain glance at Starsky, then slid past the man, who remained poised like a statue with his gun trained on Jim.
Moving quickly, Blair stuffed his computer, cord, and book into the tan backpack, leaving the denim pack and his wig on the floor. He used his good arm to swing the backpack over his shoulder, then shuffled slowly past Hutch, who also had his gun locked on Ellison, and moved to Jim's side.
Jim used his free hand to reach into his jacket pocket. He retrieved a key and handed it to Blair, whispering so that Starsky and Hutch couldn't hear. "There's a blue VW bug parked out front. Get behind the wheel and start the engine. Be prepared to make a fast take-off. It's a funny stick, though...."
Blair nodded. "I can handle it. The rig thing... remember?"
"See ya in a couple of seconds."
Blair turned toward the stairs, then glanced back at Starsky and Hutch. He whispered low enough for Sentinel ears only, "Uh, you're not going to hurt them, right?"
Jim shook his head. "Of course not, now go!"
"Be careful." Blair took off at a run down the stairs.
Jim waited, tracking Blair's hurried footsteps to the lower floor and then out to the sidewalk. He heard the car door open then slam and, finally, the engine start.
Starsky and Hutch remained poised for action.
"We've both got you covered." Starsky held the gun steady. "You shoot him, I shoot you."
Jim reached into his jacket pocket. "I know." Moving with the speed and grace of a cat, he leapt backward, kicking the door shut, and snatched the small, trial-sized bottle of dishsoap he'd purchased at the corner store. It took him less than a second to pop the cap and squirt the contents on the floor as he fled toward the stairs.
The door opened after he'd made it only three steps. He heard a thud and muffled curses as one of the detectives slipped. It sounded like the other one merely stumbled but managed to retain his footing. Still, they were both slowed down enough for Jim to hop in the Volkswagen just as Blair slammed his foot down on the accelerator.
The VW bug didn't make the most spectacular take-off. It sputtered a couple of times, threatening to stall, but then caught and roared away from the scene a second before the two detectives burst onto the sidewalk. Jim watched in his sideview mirror as the dark-haired detective ran around to the driver's side and stopped abruptly, then slammed his fist on the roof and kicked the front tire.
"Damnit!" Starsky hit the roof again. "I just put new tires on this thing!"
Hutch peered around the front of the car at the flat tire. "Great. Just great." With a frustrated sigh, he moved back to the passenger side and opened the door, grabbing the radio and reporting the situation to dispatch.
"Did you get the plates, Starsk?"
"A48B839. Blue VW bug."
Hutch relayed that information, then replaced the radio. "You got a spare?"
Starsky threw his hands up and stormed to the trunk. "Yeah, of course I got a spare! What kind of an idiot do you think I am?"
Hutch trotted back around to the front tire. "I'm going to reserve comment on that one." He stooped to inspect the tire more closely. "Hang on with the spare, Starsky. It doesn't look like he slashed it. Probably just let the air out. You got a pump?"
Starsky looked up from the open trunk. "Uh... No."
Hutch raised his eyebrows. "No air pump? You were saying something about being an idiot?"
"Shut up!" Slamming the trunk closed, Starsky spun around and stalked toward the corner store. "I'll be back!"
"Watch out! Watch out!" Jim braced his arm against the dashboard as Sandburg swerved the car around a daredevil bicyclist.
"Whoa! Ouch!" Blair winced, but gripped the wheel tighter as he glanced in the rearview mirror. "Did we lose them?"
Jim threw an incredulous glance at Blair. "Yeah, I'm sure. An old lady with cataracts could spot them in that tomato. Besides, we never actually had them. I saw the siren light on their dashboard and let the air out of the front tire before I went into the hotel."
"Really?" Blair seemed on the verge of hyperventilating. "Oh man, I've never run from the police before."
"Yeah, well, me either. Slow down, Evil Kenevil, before we get pulled over by a traffic cop." He looked over at the young man. "How's your arm, by the way?"
Blair eased off the accelerator. "It hurts. He really did a number on it."
"Okay, pull over. We gotta dump the car, anyway."
Blair pulled the car into an empty parking spot along a sidewalk, then turned to face Jim. "Okay, now what? You okay, by the way? Where have you been? What happened to you?"
Jim smiled. "I was about to ask you all the same questions. What's this about a shooting?"
Blair slumped in his chair and rubbed his hands over his face. "Oh man, I don't know how it happened. It's all kind of fuzzy. After the cave-in and the... the... I don't know what that was.... An explosion?"
"I'm not sure, but go on..."
"Well, I woke on the sidewalk. There was a cop laying on the ground bleeding, and a man and woman were running away. I had this pounding headache, and I didn't know what the hell was going on, so I ran. I went to call the police, but then I saw this newspaper about the Jonestown Massacre. The article said it had just happened. I looked at the date, and --"
"Found out it's 1978." Jim tilted his head back and sighed. "I can't wrap my brain around this. How--" Sirens caught his ear and he straightened, focusing on the sound to fix their location. "Come on, let's go. We've got cops about a mile to the east."