DAY OF THE REST OF YOUR LIFE
Hutch surfaced from his reverie as Starsky
maneuvered the Torino into the vacant space outside the store. "Why
d'you pull over?" he asked. "Forget we're short of time?"
"It's not that late. This is going to take
just a minute." Starsky was out of the car, on the sidewalk. He looked
in through the passenger window. "Just take it easy. Be back in no
But Hutch was already following into the
drugstore, catching up with his partner in time to propel him onward,
frustrating the built-in tendency to linger over the racks of paperback
"What're you looking for?" he demanded.
"Nothing." Starsky intercepted a
passing sales clerk. "Cosmetics counter?" he enquired.
"Right behind you."
"Oh -- yeah. Thanks."
"What'd you say?" Hutch's question
synchronized with her reply.
Starsky homed in on his target, prowling along
the colorful, scented displays.
"Help you?" Her badge identified the
smiling salesgirl as Rosa.
Starsky smiled back. "Uh -- sure -- I need a
"You do?" She considered her customer
and went on, "Are you thinking of any particular shade? You have a
special occasion in mind?"
"No...no...." Starsky said
nonchalantly. "Just for every day."
She indicated a tray of goods. "These are
classy -- new. How about Petunia Passion? Or --" she sent a swift,
speculative look in his direction -- "this Glowing Gorgeous?"
Starsky frowned over the numerous options,
appealed for back-up. "Hutch -- which?" and Hutch turned back to
the counter, checking his watch again. "Which should I get? This one's
-- uh -- Tender Temptation -- or this -- can't decide --"
"My temptation's anything but tender right
now! Know what time it is?" Hutch's attention was obviously elsewhere.
"I know. But it's important to get this
"This is a new line," Rosa offered
helpfully, drawing Hutch into the transaction. "Try it -- ?"
Starsky hesitated. "Just give me your hand." She smoothed the
color inside his wrist. "See? Scarlet Ribbons -- a true red."
Puzzlement battled with impatience in Hutch's
expression. "Right! It's you, Starsk," he pronounced.
"Candy apple...." Starsky considered
"He'll take it," Hutch informed Rosa.
"You like it?" Starsky came to a
decision. "He likes it. I'll take it," he confirmed. "Could I
just have it gift-wrapped?"
"No problem. We have them
ready-packaged." She produced a small, glittering box. "How about
the nail varnish to go?"
"He doesn't have the time," Hutch broke
in. "Will you come on! " He headed for the exit, leading
the way, yards ahead within seconds.
"Don't have the time," Starsky repeated
as he paid for his choice. He left the store at a run to catch up with Hutch
at the car.
"Get in," Hutch instructed tersely.
"And don't tell me. Save the explanations."
"What's to explain? Had a little shopping to
do is all. Person needs a lipstick -- where's the big deal?"
"Okay, okay. Let's go. Could take time to
find a parking space -- remember? Just drive."
Starsky drove. Hutch fumed. Journey's end, they
drove in and Starsky pointed triumphantly to the clock. "Told you. Ten
minutes to spare."
Judith's flight was being called just as they
caught sight of her. Still on their side of the departure gate, she came
forward to meet them. Only a few weeks back they hadn't known of her
existence. Then, with the outbreak of the plague virus, Dr. Judith Kaufmann
had flown in from the Alabama research center to be part of the
investigative team. And was now flying back. In that brief interval she had
played a crucial and unforgettable part in both their lives, a kind of
catalyst, making some things suddenly clearer, bringing certain factors into
sharper focus. They owed her so much.
"You made it," she greeted them now.
"Wouldn't miss it," Starsky assured
her. "Here --" He took her hand and closed her fingers around the
little gift package. "I owe you one." He glanced at Hutch,
standing silently by, then back to Judith. "Thanks -- for
everything." She looked down at the gift wrapped gift, half-smiling,
then returned his look, understanding in her eyes. "Here's your
patient," he told her and stepped back, scrutinizing the newspaper he
hadn't been able to refrain from picking up off the Torino's rear seat,
while the last exchanges continued.
"You have to leave?"
"Oh, yes...I have to leave. Plane to
"Back to 'Bama, huh?"
As if in confirmation, the flight announcement
was repeated. There was opportunity for only a few more minutes' talk as travelers
thronged around them in the busy departure area. And then, as the time ran
out, the moment for the final farewells. They returned her last wave, stood
watching 'til she was no longer in view.
Hutch sighed and began leading the way out. The
thought of Judith would always bring the reminders of so many things: the
sharp sense of reprieve, never very far away now, and, with it, awareness of
possibilities restored, chances still real. Inside that isolation room he
had been somehow insulated from emotion as well as from people, when, minute
by minute, any long-distance prospects had become progressively more
illusory...when they had both known that all Starsky's brave words were no
proof against a plague virus. Never a very good liar, Starsk, except when
you're under cover.
The post-plague days had brought their own kind
of respite as well as acknowledgement of priorities which, he saw now,
Judith had acknowledged too. Their debt to her was not for her professional
skills alone, but also for her clear vision of certain realities. Now, he
was re-learning the realization that there was going to be a feature and
that he himself could make some choices in its shaping. The knowledge
brought its moments of cresting dynamism.
They rode the escalator to the basement garage
and Hutch knew again that resurgence of confidence. End of a chapter. And
the start of another. There were plans, ambitions, hopes, all in the
waiting. He wasn't wholly sure of details, but this zest for life was no
illusion. There was a lot of living to do. And to share. It was a thought
that made him turn spontaneously to Starsky who, in turn, caught the mood,
returning the infectious grin...message received...understood.
"Gonna live, Starsk." He voiced the
authoritative statement. "Gonna live -- uh -- hundred and forty-eight
years. At least."
"Sure you are. But right now, gonna take you
home and tuck you in. Remember -- you're just out of the hospital. Not ready
for the big leagues yet."
"Sounds good." Hutch found himself more
than ready to go along with both diagnosis and prescription.
In the days which had followed his escape from
the hospital, there had been so many hours, needing, it seemed, to be filled
with nothing but arrears of real sleep. Starsky's plans for his immediate
future felt irresistible. Who would have thought that the noise and bustle
of an air terminal could leave him wanting to sleep for yet more hours?
As they drove back to Venice, his thoughts
skimmed the events of the day. "Wonder how Judith liked her gift."
"I was going to return the one she lent
me," Starsky said. "Only it was sorta squidged."
"Figures." Hutch smiled reminiscently.
"You did a great job there, Starsk. Neat. Original, too."
"Yeah. Wasn't easy, you know. Ever tried
mirror-writing on glass with a lipstick?"
The remaining couple of miles brought them to the
apartment. As they left the car Hutch remembered something else. Across the
car roof, he looked at Starsky. "Hey, tell me something." Starsky
raised an enquiring eyebrow. "This car -- you didn't really hock
"What? What're you talkin' about?"
"C'mon. Don't forget I've had a lot of time
to hear a lot of things. Had a lot of visitors. Huggy --"
"So, did you?"
"Wasn't necessary. Had to think of ways in
case it might have been."
Hutch bestowed an affectionate pat upon the
Torino's gleaming side, then rounded the car to join his partner, patted him
too. The understanding held, needing no words to elaborate it.
"So -- quiet night in," Starsky
pronounced. "We start by building up your strength, ready for those
next hundred years. Then we think about the big leagues."