For the third time Starsky circled the Torino, pausing at intervals to
pat or stroke the gleaming paintwork. Merle and Hutch stood watching the
re-union in silent respect for the significance of the occasion.
Restored...Starsky seemed to be needing a lot of time to absorb the
reality, to believe the miracle. Finally, he turned an exultant look on
Merle, found words. "It's...it's terrific! You did a great job!"
"I know." Matter-of-factly, Merle acknowledged the tribute.
"You mean you had doubts?"
"Doubts? That surprise you?" It was Hutch who asked the
question. "Anybody looking at that wreck would've given up on it."
Starsky had settled in the driver's seat, reacquainting himself with old
familiar feelings. He turned the ignition key, gently revved the engine,
lowered the window.
"It all took a while," he observed to The Earl, "but it
feels like she's new again. Thanks!" He couldn't stop smiling.
"Want a ride?" he enquired of his partner as Hutch joined him.
"Your place or mine?" He watched as Hutch took his seat.
"Feels good, huh?"
"Make it mine," Hutch said. "There's a celebration dinner
waiting. Special day."
Starsky waved to Merle and pulled out of the yard...one legacy of the
Terry Nash case satisfactorily resolved. The file on that case wasn't
closed, might never be, but the lapse of several weeks had removed the
investigation from its top-priority rating on their schedule. Loose ends
remained but there had been successes too. After-dinner talk turned
naturally to the set-up which had left the Torino seriously dented, but had
also left Terry Nash uncertain of so much in his life and had robbed Joe
Durniak of life itself. The memories and the mysteries left behind were
still insistent. Aspects of the case still haunted those who had been
involved in it. The feeling did not go away that this was a case which would
Hutch remembered their first sighting of Durniak -- granted special
protection, but no victim -- in charge still of his own options and
initiatives -- accustomed to organize and to issue orders...even in the
mundane matter of who should drive the vast rig which had featured in their
undercover roles. As they left the truck stop cafe, Hutch had been all set
to take the driver's seat when Durniak's instruction had checked him.
"No -- let Davey drive." Hutch had exchanged a glance with his
partner as Durniak continued, "I'll talk to your friend about old
Starsky seemed amenable. "Puce Goose rides again," he said as
Durniak was shepherded into the semi-darkness of the rig's capacious
container section. Hutch hopped up to join him and the doors were secured.
It wasn't luxurious back there but a couple of mattresses cancelled any real
"Make yourself comfortable, Joe, "Hutch invited. "It's not
exactly a stretch limo but it should be a safe ride."
Durniak's expression stayed doubtful. "Yeah? Sure of that, are
you?" With a grunt, he sank down on a mattress, back against the
truck's side, while Hutch relaxed next to him. For the next fifteen minutes
there had been silence. Durniak appeared to be dozing after the tensions
inseparable from his latest transfer. He had, as Hutch knew, been moved in
carefully planned stages that would bring him finally to a small, safe hotel
-- the L.A. Fremont -- and thence to the court house.
A change in the engine's speed and sound aroused him and he stretched a
little, sat up straighter, turned to contemplate his companion.
"Seven years, huh?" he said slowly.
"Seven...? Oh -- right." Hutch recalled Durniak's earlier
question and his remarks before the journey began. What did Durniak plan on
asking, Hutch wondered. He didn't feel ready to be cross-examined by this
man -- about himself, about Starsky, about their work, their partnership.
But Durniak seemed content simply to reminisce, to recall the long-ago
New York days...more than twenty years, Hutch calculated. The anticipated
questions didn't come, only the concerned references to the family Durniak
had known then, to a man for whom he obviously still felt regard and
respect, to the child whose fate and future had clearly preoccupied him
during those intervening years.
"So -- what'd Joe want to know?" Starsky's question broke in on
Hutch's musing. "Guess he could've answered most of his own questions
anyway. Guy like that has enough characters in his own outfit to keep him
informed on anything he wants to know."
Hutch thought about it, recalling the brief exchanges with Durniak as the
rig had drawn nearer to Los Angeles.
"I think," he said slowly, "that he just wanted to know
that you were okay these days."
"And he said...there had been a time when you'd had to do a lot of
growing up -- faster and earlier than most kids do."
Starsky registered a wry smile at that. "I remember."
"And he didn't tell me anything I didn't know already," Hutch
"Guess he just wanted to talk about the old days," Starsky
"Maybe. He dozed a lot of the time. I did tell him one thing, though
-- when he was asking me about you."
"Yeah?" Starsky raised an enquiring eyebrow.
"Told him --- like you said --- he's okay."
"Got that right, partner." They shared the affirming laughter.
Starsky got up from the sofa and wandered across to the window, repeating
a movement which had punctuated his time since they'd entered the apartment.
He stood looking down at the street below. "Just checking," he
murmured as Hutch joined him there. Together they gazed down on the very
new-looking Torino, sparkling and splendid after Merle's ministrations.
"Special day, huh?" Hutch commented. A thought occurred.
"Hey -- there's that bottle of -- uh -- champagne..."
"Champagne? -- you thinking of that bottle you won at the picnic --
in the barbecue raffle?"
"Been saving it for a moment like this. Let's drink her
Starsky followed him into the kitchen. "And afterwards -- later
-" he invited, "you wanna drive my car?"