So this was it: the unanticipated invitation to meet the man from IA,
here in Dobey's office. Being propositioned. Opportunity knocks
Dobey had said little beyond suggesting that if he wanted more time to
think about it, another meeting could be set up some day soon -- tomorrow
maybe. Anything, it seemed, might be fixed so that he should not miss this
chance of a lifetime.
It was routine, Hutch knew, that personal files and bio-sheets were being
constantly scrutinized, brought up-to-date, added to, sometimes with their
knowledge, often without it...the detailed noting of merit and potential, or
of less positive qualities, all the vital statistics which Authority decreed
should be placed on record.
So why be surprised that IA should know so much about him? -- should be
taking this interest in his achievements and his failures, his aspirations
and his misfortunes...the story of his professional life over the past
several years. They would have gone to Dobey first anyway. And Dobey would
have given Preston a fair assessment.
"The Department is always looking for promising material,"
Preston stated precisely. "Not just cops who are good at their job, but
people with some class."
Dobey cleared his throat, seemed about to speak, apparently thought
better of it.
"With your background and your education," Preston continued,
"you might go some way with us."
Still trying to get used to the idea, Hutch became aware that the other
two were waiting for his own reaction to it. "Yeah -- well, thanks for
the suggestion," he began. "Only I'm not sure it's my kind of
scene...I mean, I like what we do now and I believe we're doing it okay --
there's been times we even got some commendations --" He half-turned to
Dobey to back what he'd just said, wondering at that moment why he sounded
as if he needed to justify what he did and why he did it, but the captain
appeared to have adopted an observer's role....
your own, Hutchinson. Nobody else's decision. Your very own unaided work.
Make sure this is one answer you get absolutely right....
"We do a necessary job," he went on, turning back to the IA
representative. Somehow, it was essential to make the point completely
clear. "We know how --"
Preston cut in. "We -- ? I'm talking about you. It's your career
that's on the line in this interview. And that's what you should be
remembering, unless you're a lot less smart than we took you for. The
department did go into this thoroughly. Don't you want to get ahead?"
For Preston it was a novel experience to encounter any response but total
gratification on these occasions when he played God, offering promotion, a
big step up the careers-ladder, to carefully-vetted candidates. Now, he was
not trying to conceal the sense of almost personal grievance that this
meeting, which he had sought, should be taking other than its predicted
He had spent time -- and his time, he was indicating, was more valuable
than most people's -- going through record files. He had weighed
possibilities. He had come to the magnanimous decision that this offer
should be made. His script featured, as the next line, some devout
expression of gratitude for benefits received. He didn't reckon on having
his time wasted -- if he had chosen, who could fail to answer? This one,
apparently, could. He saw the situation as a challenge to every
management-skill his text-books had taught him.
"Sure I want to get ahead," Hutch was saying. "Make a
success of what we do. Only I don't see myself fitting into that slot. Just
wouldn't have the special talents, I guess...."
Was he being facetious? Preston sent a sharp look in his direction,
failed to discern anything except the seriousness appropriate to the
"See, there's a lot of satisfaction in the work we do right
now," Hutch told him, "and it's getting some fair results."
Again, from Dobey, no hint of confirmation or denial.
"And I put it to you that you're making a big mistake -- one you'll
come to regret before long. You keep saying 'we'. I've read the files and
I'll remind you that it's your future under discussion -- yours -- in the
singular. I can guess what's in your mind, but police partnerships don't
have to last forever...."
Hutch thought. No new idea there. He
pushed away the knowledge of the familiar possibility, realizing that
Preston seemed more indignant than the situation warranted.... So?
We were never that high on IA's party-list anyway.... He found no more
to say until the lengthening silence prompted Preston's next ill-chosen
"I'm warning you -- you could be sorry for this. Surely you can see
it would be unfortunate to let yourself be held back -- let yourself get
stuck with some second-rater who's just not in your own league. You owe it
to yourself not to throw it all away."
Dobey was suddenly still, conscious of tensions engendered by Preston's
words. Could Preston himself be so unaware?
Hutch spoke briefly and very much to the point, a little surprised to
find that he was getting the words right, both clear and coherent, while
half his mind was running on so many complex questions. He didn't want to
make a speech: in one way, Preston simply wasn't worth it. And suddenly
there was nothing to discuss. And yet things needed to be said. He wanted it
over, to be out of this pointless discussion, getting on with some real
"I won't be throwing anything away," he said, "anything
worth holding on to, that is. We're a good effective team...nobody could say
different. We do a worthwhile job and a lot of the time we get it right --
and, okay, we care about it. I wouldn't want to change."
He'd made his point. Why go on with it?
Preston could recognize defeat when it was laid out in front of him.
Besides, his schedule was running late. He hadn't figured this would take so
He spoke casually as he got to his feet, gathering up notes and papers
from Dobey's desk. "He's lucky to have you to defend him," he
remarked, adding, as he intercepted Hutch's unbelieving look. "That
partner of yours, I mean...."
So it wasn't finished.
"Obviously," Hutch said carefully, "I'm not making myself
clear. We both have work to do and I don't want to take up more of our time.
But I'll just make two points -- okay?" He stopped, compelling
Preston's attention. "Right. Point A -- you're talking about my partner
and I'm not prepared to discuss him with you." He waited a beat and
went on. "Then there's point B -- since you mention it. It's just that
he doesn't need me to 'defend' him -- not from certain things. You may have
read the records, but if you think that, you don't know him at all.
Defending? I'll tell you he does a very competent job for himself in that
line -- as necessary. For me too -- but that doesn't matter for now."
He smiled reminiscently. "All I'm trying to tell you is I don't flatter
myself I could change what's going on in your head, but I object to having
to listen to it. That's on my own account -- not because I'm defending
Speculatively, Preston's sour gaze rested on him. Hutch was strongly
aware that what he said now would be remembered. More for the record.... He watched Preston register what he was
saying, uncertain how Preston would word the inevitable report, but, with
sudden insight, realizing a depth of personal resentment. It must have been
rare that someone chosen to be groomed for stardom should have taken over
the initiative like this, should have failed to pick up the proper cues.
Preston looked back at him searchingly. "You sound as if you had a
lot of time for him," he commented with apparent carelessness.
"Friend of yours...?"
"Yeah...." Hutch met the assessing glance. "I have that
honor." Ignoring the other man, Hutch opened the door...find something
to say, end this, get himself out of the room. "I'll get on with that
case-sheet, okay?" he offered fatuously.
Dobey nodded, relaxing a little, as they emerged into the outer office.
Starsky was there already, engaged in some rapid and unconventional typing.
Preston paused beside him.
"Seems there are some people you can't help," he observed.
"Your colleague here just turned down a really big opportunity -- sort
that won't come around again, thinks your team-work is this nation's answer
to the rising crime-rate."
Hutch listened, suspicious of the reasonable note that now came through
in Preston's resigned tone. That was
my decision if you're gonna try shifting responsibility next step in your
game.... He was aware of Preston's smoldering anger, regarding him with
an almost scientific detachment as the IA man was pushed by ill-temper into
a final acrimonious remark.
"I can't say everyone has noticed anything special about this
'team'." He remained standing at the typist's side while Starsky, with
a satisfied expression, rolled the papers from the machine. "He never
even calls you by your first name."
Starsky considered this.
"Yeah," he said, "that's right." He turned to Hutch
with an I-keep-telling-you air. "See? People notice."
Dobey shepherded Preston to the door as Hutch slid open the drawer of a
filing cabinet. And what did that
mean? He had seen enough of Preston to have tuned in to his particular
brand of split-level conversation.
"Got those carbons in the right way around," Starsky informed
the world-at-large in a pleased tone. "So -- what was all that
"Job where they'd probably allow me a secretary for all this
"What greater inducement are you waiting for? When d'you
Hutch looked across at him. "I kinda like it here. Maybe I'm short
"The IA character seemed to think you were making a mistake."
There was a pause. "Look -- I wouldn't want to louse up your career or
"That doesn't sound like you talking. And anyway, you know it's not
"Oh, sure, I know. I mean -- how would you cope? But how about them?
You wanna split?"
Hutch supposed the question had to be asked -- and answered. He shrugged,
met the very direct gaze with a slight grin, as the earlier tension receded.
"Well, but I already told Dobey last week -- remember, when they
were putting those new work schedules together. I said we'd go on the way we
were. He'll have authorized all those new rotas now -- probably had them
typed up, too, and you know we don't have enough typing help around here. Be
very inconvenient for a lot of people if we change now. You have to consider
other people a little...." His tone changed as he came to a stop.
"Besides -- we're a set...okay?" In the short silence, the look
held, but Hutch's smile of pure satisfaction was reflected now in his
partner's expression. "Deal?" Hutch asked finally.
Their hands met suddenly in the reassuring clasp which was somehow part
of the rightness they could both feel in the way the events of this
particular morning had been worked out.
"Okay then," Starsky announced, "that's settled. How about
we get an early lunch before Dobey dreams up something to keep us here for
the next couple hours?" He appeared to be giving careful deliberation
to some original concept. "Tell you what -- buy you a beer to mark your
failure to achieve promotion."
"Impulse-buying, Starsk? You really thought about this?"
"Yeah...well -- it's just this once."
Things were coming back to normal again. The jarring, off-key images of
Preston's words were back in the perspective of Preston's distorted values
and Hutch could see them as unimportant in the integrated context of a tried
and enduring partnership. He would throw nothing away. Reality was
recognizing what they had: contemptuous, uninformed comment could never hurt
that living center. To discard something as spontaneous as they possessed in
this life -- enhancing relationship -- how could Preston, or anyone, suppose
that he would be so blind as to exchange this substance for that shadow? He
knew nothing he had not known before, but he knew it at this moment, with a
more intense clarity and awareness.
"You coming my way?" Starsky enquired from the door.
"Sure. And actually, you'd be better off with celery juice or
something. You can't afford to lose muscle-tone in this line of work. Don't
forget -- I depend on it -- you got a responsibility there. Your muscle-tone
could be the one thing between me and something nasty."
Starsky waited indulgently for the speech to be finished, while Minnie
looked up with a grin for them both.
"Can tell, can't you? He only wants you for your body,
"So I better get it refueled then."
He courteously held open the door into the hallway for Hutch to precede
him, and, without more talk, they headed for the elevator. Just like any other day, Hutch thought...but the morning's
confrontation had thrown a spotlight on certain truths, leaving a more lucid
and immediate knowledge than before...think
about it later....
"You can drive if you like," Starsky suggested generously.
"Why? Oh. Haven't you finished that book yet?"
"Only want to see how this chapter ends. Won't take long. I'm a fast
reader. You should read this -- did you know ---"
"Don't spoil it for me."
"I could just finish it on the way. Sooner I do, sooner you get to
read it. I don't mind if you drive. Not really. Be concentrating on the book
anyway. It's full of the most incredible--"
"Oh, get in."
here we go...why does it work for us? Dobey knew it was the right
choice...we do have something we're lucky to have...more than lucky....
Hutch glanced across at his
engrossed partner. ...have to admit
there's some things he sees faster than I do.
The keys were already in the ignition but before he turned on the engine,
he glanced across at the passenger-seat. Starsky looked up from the page to
give him a brief, brilliant smile, and, in its warmth, the cloud of the
He smiled and started the car. Should have known. No need of any
People notice, he thought.
We do too.