The soft wind off the ocean combined with the sunlight to create a late
afternoon of golden warmth. A few people walked along the waves' sandy edge.
Dogs and children splashed happily in and out of the water, chasing the
gulls and each other.
Hutch watched the girl who had paused there to stare out across the sea,
her back to the buildings, the land, to the people. He took in the way the
dark hair lifted in the breeze, the bright sweater, somehow at odds with the
immobility, and began to cross the street toward her, pace quickening when
certainty grew as distance was reduced. He was still several yards away
before she turned around and noticed him, waited for him to come near.
"Hi, Terry," he said gently, unable to shut out the hint of
enquiry from the greeting.
"Hi." Her ready smile was reassuring, unsurprised. "Guess
you come here, too."
"Sure. Remember? Live just across the street." He fell into
step beside her as she began to walk on. "Thought it must be you
standing there. You okay? Okay for you to be here?"
He saw her smile again at that. "You sound like David."
"I do? Well...you're a way from home, aren't you? And -- "
"And how'd I get here? Laura -- she's my neighbor in the next
apartment -- was driving this way." She went on, answering the question
which still showed in his expression. "I like the ocean. I've done this
a couple of times since.... They said at the hospital it couldn't make any
big difference, and I promise I didn't drive. And I'll take a cab home -- no
reason not to -- okay?"
next vacation to save for, he supplied. If Starsky knew the verdict, confirmed by the New York
doctors, then Terry must surely know it, too. Must put a lot of things in a revised order of priorities.
"Right. Hey, you don't have to explain anything, you know."
She relaxed at that. "I know. It's nice here. 'Til Monday."
He gave her a puzzled glance. "It will only be nice here 'til
"Monday, I go back to Marshal Center," she announced
triumphantly. "That's back to work, Hutch. Oh -- part-time, maybe --
temporary...depends. But I'll be back."
"Miss those kids, don't you?" Guess they're going to miss you, too, he almost added, the abrupt
ending to the question sounding so obvious.
"Hutch." She stopped walking. "Don't worry about it. These
days, any little word can come out wrong. You know?"
He did know. He recalled Mollie's guilty embarrassment that evening when
a mere monopoly game, it seemed, was beset by these snares. He remembered,
too, that early ride home from the hospital, the morning after the shooting,
when Starsky had simply left the Torino's keys in his hand and gone around
to the passenger side -- and counted the billboards for the funeral parlors.
Perspectives and priorities all totally changed overnight.
"I know," he told Terry now.
"So. And today I don't even have a headache."
They stood for a while, watching the sunlit waves and the soaring gulls.
"Far enough?" Hutch asked eventually. And tentatively, "How
about you let me drive you home?"
Agreeably, she turned back the way they had come. "Thanks."
Silver Lake wasn't too long a ride. He rode the elevator with her up to
the light, informal apartment, and followed her into the kitchen where a
cork bulletin board held colorful examples of children's artwork and a
clipped-out recipe for imaginative ways with zucchini. A lettered axiom --
'Never eat more than you can lift' -- made him grin, and she laughed, too.
"No prize for saying who put that one there," she commented.
"Was after I'd been talking about eating to handle boredom."
"Bored? You?" It was the last word he would have applied to
"I was kidding. Then." She sighed. "These days, it's
different. Every day, there's all the time there is -- chance to catch up on
all those books I never read...anything. Great, if only I could relax and
A pitcher holding brilliant peonies was between them on the pine table;
she caressed a coral-pink petal, then looked up to meet Hutch's eyes.
"Brought them home from the hospital -- first ones he ever gave me.
David's gifts tend to be less -- uh -- predictable. Like that one." She
indicated the paper rainbow which adorned the window, then carried the
flowers with her into the living room. Finding a place for them on the wide
window-seat, she settled beside them, leaned back against the alcove's pale
"Come and look," she offered. "I think this is really why
I took this place. You should see it at night -- magic."
He joined her at the window, high above the city. "I can
"It's beautiful," she said. "The lights and the stars.
Sometimes, just after I'd met David, I used to look down on it all at night,
wonder where you both were."
She laughed. "Of course, both. He'd talk about you all the
Echoes from another place, another time. Gillian -- he talks about you all the time.... Restless still, she
left the window and wandered back into the kitchen.
"Coffee?" she invited, and he had the impression of routines
filling in emptiness.
"Sure, why not? Thanks."
Already, hardly listening, she was filling and switching on the machine,
a lot less calm, he felt, than she appeared -- her hands not entirely steady
in a day which had maybe gone on long enough.
"You want to make it?" Appeal and invitation in one as she
pushed a couple of mugs in his direction and went back into the other room.
Hutch found her there a few minutes later, feet curled under her, in a
corner of the sofa. One arm encircled a large teddy bear as she reached out
to accept the coffee mug. He sat down at her side and stroked one finger
across the soft fur of velvet-padded paw.
"Ollie," she introduced. "He lives here, too. Say 'hi' to
Hutch. Hutch is a friend."
He raised his mug in salutation to the bear, sipped appreciatively.
"That's good," he approved. "You know you have better coffee
"Was you who made it -- congratulations."
The trivialities came nowhere near to filling the spaces. "How do
you --?" he began, and let it rest there. Shouldn't ask something
An enquiring eyebrow picked up on the question. "How do I -- cope?
Is that it?"
"I shouldn't have -- "
She sighed with a kind of resigned exasperation. "Shouldn't? Listen,
I don't believe there's any rule book here. You play it by ear, day at a
time -- like I told David. You know another way?" Over Ollie's furry
head, her look met his very directly. The bear was clasped close, like a
He tried again. "I can't figure it. It's just -- you're so calm,
strong..." I shouldn't have
"You think so? Maybe, some of the time. There's a choice?
Only...Ken, I'm not so strong. Sometimes I'm just scared."
He took the half-empty coffee mug from her and set it down beside his
own, put an arm around her and around Ollie, let her rest within its circle.
A while later, she stirred, and went on, "Know what I was thinking
this afternoon at the beach, when you came by? Guess it was watching the
kids there. I felt like one of them, but it was like watching the waves take
my ball out of reach -- end to playtime." A pause. "Need to watch
out for the self-pity, huh?"
Hutch asked quietly, "Have you told David all this?"
"We talk. He knows. Hutch, you're going to have to help him."
Her expression held a compelling quality. "He's going to need it."
He nodded. "I know."
"There's so much guilt there. I don't know what to do about
"It shouldn't surprise you too much, honey. Goes with the
She went on, urgently. "I do know what he needs to do with his life.
He shouldn't quit the force. I'd never want that to happen because of me.
That's important." She smiled then, adding, "To both of you."
"I know that, too."
She regarded him gravely now. "I'm glad about that. I wish..."
"What?" he prompted.
"We might have made it work. He used to try to explain about your
kind of life, the funny hours and everything. Some people make it
work." She shrugged.
"Anyway...whatever...." The fatigue was palpable. "Maybe I
should humor them -- try to rest now. It's supposed to help." A
reluctant, skeptical grin accompanied the statement.
"Doctor's orders, huh? Tired?" Your day for asking obvious questions, Hutchinson.
"Mmmm.... Dr. Kuo said to expect that. She's nice, Ken. I can talk
to her." He waited, finishing off the last of the coffee. "Oh, I
can talk to you too. And David. Only, somehow, talking to her is different.
It's a little hard to explain."
But he could begin to understand that. In this situation, he could
understand how Dr. Kuo would be with her on the far side of an invisible
boundary which related to things other than glass partitions or isolation
Now, as they got up from the sofa, he hugged Terry gently, and set a soft
kiss between her eyes. "You take care."
"Thanks for bringing me home."
"Any time. See you around."
She didn't answer that one. But moments later, she returned the light
hug, and then turned to open the door. He left her standing there, Ollie
still held close, half-smiling as she watched him leave.
Hutch drove back to Venice, still with that image of her, alone now in
the uncluttered apartment, sleeping maybe. Was that possible, with a mind so
full of unfinished things? It was not more than a few weeks since Starsky
had brought her along that evening, wanting them to meet each other. From
the outset, Hutch had recognized his own ambivalent response, aware of
something on a new and different level -- serious this time -- something to
change a familiar and established pattern. Threatening, even? Threatening --
what? He had avoided definitions, tried to dismiss the ideas, which, as if
with an independent life of their own, would not go away.
At the school, too, he had found himself drawn in more and more, not
unwilling that this should be so, needing to be near. Starsky had clearly
taken it for granted that he'd want to be involved. The ball-game had become
a regular feature of off-duty time, while from the sidelines Terry had
watched the exuberant rivalry, and had provided colored bands, blue for the
Hutch team and, at their leader's instigation, candy-apple red for their
"You two are really good with them," she had remarked as the
Cokes circulated after one energetic session. "Can't decided who enjoys
it more, you two or the kids."
Hutch had caught another echo from way back...you
two are wonderful together...the Mello case, of course....
Back now at the ocean's edge, he stopped the car, still thinking over the
afternoon's encounter. Had it been entirely a chance meeting? Was it an
accident that he had found Terry standing there just across the street from
Venice Place? Had she felt a need to create a time to talk? As he gazed at
the spot where he had first noticed her, the sunlight still danced like
diamonds on the waves, and he felt that the sight might always now bring her
The background music from the car radio was suddenly emphatic in the
silence: 'I never knew what I loved in you; Never knew what you loved in
me...' Not true, Starsk. I do know.
And I have no categories for what I know, or answers for the questions that
are part of that knowledge.
His squirreling thoughts played back over the time when Terry had left
the hospital. Starsky had talked compulsively, stormed, brooded. And when,
finally, the torrent of words seemed at an end -- "You know something?
I asked her --"
"What?" As if he didn't
"If...if she'd marry me."
"Yeah?" Carefully colorless.
"Yeah. You could say lousy timing." Starsky had looked up then,
met his partner's eyes, his gaze seeking Hutch's, inviting comment.
"She didn't say anything."
Starsky shrugged, sighed. "Whatever..."
Could it have worked? Hutch's thoughts returned to Terry's own
questioning, less than an hour earlier. Had she also been uncertain of
answers to her own questions? He sat there, watching the ocean, trying to
analyze, to confront, the tumult of feelings which Starsky's confidence had
induced, still trying to come to terms with half-acknowledged factors.
Perhaps, as Terry had speculated, this one might have worked out, in
spite of all the intrusive claims of the job, all the built-in stresses. He
liked this woman, and he knew she liked him. With her, more than once, there
had been the sense of being understood better than he understood himself, of
being in the presence of a kind of insight which saw many things and saw
them with a clear-sighted directness, with courage and with charity. Maybe
it was more of the same quality which made her so gifted in the handling of
those children's needs. He was, almost unexpectedly, comfortable with her.
They'd even developed a kind of conspiratorial style, ganging up on Starsky,
enjoying -- as did its target -- the fun and the foolishness. "What did
he call it?" she had appealed to Hutch in mock exasperation.
"Calls it a compromise speed," he'd affirmed resignedly and, for
the first time in days, noted the lightening in Starsky's expression. He
could respond to her kind of humor, admire her professionalism, the adult
quality. She was very much a person in her own right.
Until only days ago, the weeks had been passing, their routine pattern
superficially unchanged. Yet, there was also an underlying sense of some new
dimension, demanding answers, resolution. Beginnings...endings...there had
been changes coming. He knew that his focus, his center, was shifting. For
now, the immediate need was the familiar one -- being there, finding, one
more time, for both of them, the dynamics of survival. And requiring in the
not very distant future to take a clear look at certain truths about himself
and his partner, letting the truths surface.
Not now. But soon.