Hutch leaned back in his chair, feeling suddenly
incapable of the effort which more words would demand. The thought of the
way his apartment looked at this moment was imprinted on his mind, every
detail vivid. Diana Harman had worked the place over with thoroughness and
dedication which suggested more than immature caprice or a bad temper
tantrum. He'd seen both qualities in her during their short acquaintance.
Had she enjoyed her star performance? The suspicion was inescapable and
disturbing. A dangerous lady?
"Hutchinson, you sure can pick 'em," he
told himself again as he called his partner's number, checking that Starsky
was home. He felt too weary to consider the drive to no purpose.
But Starsky was there on the end of the line.
"She wrecked the place?" His tone was incredulous.
"Surprise?" Hutch asked bitterly.
"Could have seen it coming."
"You sure about that? Hindsight? Like
"I should've seen the signs."
There was a pause as, for both of them, the
memory surfaced: Diana outside the squadroom door, in pursuit of her prey
even there, the hatred strong, the abuse loud, no attempt to hide it.
Enjoying the interest of a growing audience?
"So -- you planning to stay here
tonight?" Starsky enquired.
"On my way."
Images of the destruction left behind haunted
Hutch's short journey: the scattered plants, the overturned furniture, the
slender, snapped neck of the guitar. Was repair possible? But restoration
would never eradicate these sour memories. He carried out what rescue
operations he could on the leafy tangle of broken ferns, locked the door on
all the rest. He was conscious of an almost desperate need to be out of the
devastated apartment. It wasn't the first time he'd driven fast and urgently
to Starsky's place -- or Starsky to his -- prompted either by their own need
or in response to a partner's. Now, it felt natural to be heading there.
Once at Starsky's place, beer can in hand, Hutch
poured out the story, letting the anger emerge, while Starsky listened to
the torrent of words, not interrupting, not commenting, beyond the hazarded
surmise that this might be the final act of spiteful reprisal for imagined
"You think so?" Hutch sounded
They thought about it, neither finding
satisfactory answers. This woman had shown herself insanely unpredictable.
"There's one hell of a clear-up job
waiting," Hutch said gloomily.
"Figures. Tomorrow, huh?"
Hutch popped open his beer, absorbing the quiet
of the shadowed room where they now sat, trying to let its tranquility blank
out the chaos he'd left behind at Venice Place.
There was peace here in watching Starsky's
careful concentration on the magnificent ship model which he'd been working
on for over a year...a lot of loving care and skill invested in the task.
Hutch had seen the ship in various stages of its assembly, admired the
patience which the delicate task required. Nothing could be hurried here,
and Starsky clearly enjoyed the exercise of the craftsmanship involved.
Hutch had guessed that part of the appeal might lie in the same kind of
satisfaction which came from the processes of maintaining a well-tuned auto
"It's really coming along," he observed
as Starsky, head on one side, surveyed the tiny piece of rigging he had just
fixed in place.
Starsky looked up, nodded. "Yeah." Then
-- "She trashed everything?"
Hutch thought again of the mindless damage
inflicted by a crazy woman. "Looked that way. I didn't stop to take an
inventory. Plants...they looked like she'd trampled them.
Starsky frowned. "Even...even the
"Left it with its neck broken."
Starsky's look met his, sharing the sorrow at the
thought of beauty broken, craftsmanship destroyed...guitar -- or ship. He
didn't try for facile words in the silent sharing. Loss, destruction,
malice, in so many forms, were things they encountered day by day on the
job. And now so close to home.
The ship model was set gently aside and Starsky
picked up his own beer.
"You think we need to work on this?" he
asked. "How big is it? Seems she doesn't just...not like you?"
Hutch managed a wry smile. "You have a gift
for understatement -- you know that?"
"Seriously. Suppose there is a next time?
Like I said, I'm no shrink but --"
"Maybe we should start asking a few
questions," Hutch agreed. "Like at the place where she works -- at
that hospital. Could make sense. Tomorrow, huh?"
"Tomorrow," Starsky said decisively.
"Picking up pieces time."