"There's coffee on the stove."
"Come back here...."
"Don't think too badly of us."
Dryden heard the door slam as the receding steps
clattered down the stairs. This could not be happening.... Where was the
phone in this place? And when he had located it, how was he going to use it?
He began inching around in the chair to which he was fastened. Should have
learned by now never to trust that type. The silence on the drive over here
had obviously masked not sullen hostility but plain cunning, as that cocky
bastard figured out ways of getting around the system.
Well, Dryden thought with a glimmer of
satisfaction, Starsky would find out soon enough that the system had its own
effective ways of getting even. He tried to recall what exactly was the
heaviest penalty prescribed by the book in a situation like this one. He'd
see to it that Starsky paid in full for making a fool of one of IA's finest.
With a little luck, they might even be able to get him thrown off the force.
His mind turned to other aspects of this case. Should have been ready,
maybe, for something like this...a partnership such as this obviously was,
could need a special approach...could be something in the records already.
Should never have allowed Dobey to give Starsky that assignment....
Marginally consoled by the possibilities opened up by that train of thought,
he continued his laborious progress in the direction of the phone. It was a
fair distance away, given this brand of locomotion. Was going to take time,
but the effort would be worthwhile...he'd see that it was....
The momentary lightheartedness evaporated as they
took the stairs two at a time, turned left on to the sidewalk. Starsky
paused irresolutely by the Torino. "Should've ripped the phone out of
the wall," he remembered belatedly. It couldn't be long before Dryden
got to the phone or someone came checking on him.
"Around here!" Hutch urged him on past
the parked car, led the way up the side street, then left again into the
alley where the LTD stood.
"Bet your keys are still up there,"
Starsky told him, but Hutch was already turning on the ignition and Starsky
slid into the passenger seat. "Now what?" he questioned.
"Can't drive around for ever...or just go on running."
"Your plans just ran out, huh?" Hutch
asked with a touch of bitterness as he glanced in the rear mirror.
"Let's get away from here, okay? Before we find Dryden's tailing us
already." He took the coastal boulevard, made a quick turn-off five
minutes later as a black-and-white appeared, thankful for the anonymous
mediocrity of the LTD, putting more distance between themselves and the
police car. "So there they go," he commented. "What you wanna
do now, buddy? Call Dobey?" The tension was palpable.
"Pull over," Starsky ordered.
"Look...parking lot across the street. Pull in there and kill the
Hutch shrugged and followed instructions, finding
a shadowed, unobtrusive slot, the Ford just one more among the others there.
He cut the engine and felt the nightmare strain hit hard once more. Plus the
bruises he'd collected from his earlier callers. He turned to Starsky. One
thing to get clear. One thing he'd thought he was clear about already. Now,
maybe, he wasn't so sure. Or he wasn't thinking too well.... "Starsk...."
He waited for Starsky to turn his head and look at him. "Starsk...you
think...?" The question was suddenly too difficult to finish.
"What?" Starsky's casually enquiring
expression changed suddenly to disbelief. "Wha.... Godammit to
"Probably...could've fooled me...."
"You'd've refused the assignment, I
"Yeah. Think I might have." Starsky
sighed. "So much nicer for someone else to do it?" he asked
"It's an idea...."
"Yeah. And now...think about it. Think about
"I already did." The irritable exchange
"So how far d'you get? Like...by this time
you'd be being held? Thought about that?"
"Yeah. Right. I'm sorry."
"C'mon, babe...there's no need to...."
Starsky put an arm around the bowed shoulders.
"Told ya...we'll nail 'em. It's just that IA
have kept gettin' in the way so far. But we throw them off for a while...we
got a chance...." Hutch let his head drop to the soft leather of
Starsky's shoulder. It was something, he realized, he'd been wanting to do
for most of this desolate day. "...be a CUBO charge lined up for you
whatever else goes down...." he murmured in obstinate reminder of their
Starsky grunted assent. "Could be. And if
that was the biggest of our worries...."
Hutch sighed. "Hold me a minute, huh? Sorta
feel warm for the first time today..."
"Sure you do. Works two-way. It's
okay." Starsky's clasp tightened. "Been one helluva day...right?
That's why you believed I was gonna go through with it...the whole
Hutch looked back into the direct gaze. "Was
like so much had happened that was impossible...seemed like one more thing.
Part of the whole picture. I wasn't thinking...."
Starsky took possession of one hand. "But I
was. For both of us. Only way I could get near to you then. If I didn't take
it on, someone else would catch it and then it would take that much longer
to get to you. Not impossible, but you know the impossible always takes me
that much longer. And time wasn't on our side...."
Hutch nodded, recalling the bleakness of that
moment. It had not lasted long, could be counted in seconds, but it was one
part of the nightmare whose haunting impact persisted. He said, "I
don't know why I didn't see it at the time. Should've been pretty
He felt again the shattering experience of seeing
Starsky produce that warrant and shivered at the recollection. Yet, emerging
from a nightmare, he thought now, brought its own bonus of seeing some
things very clear. "You were trying to give me clues," he
discovered. "Can usually pick up on the things you say as well as the
things you don't. But then...for a minute...I didn't...."
"They didn't give us a minute. I was tryin'
to be subtle with him around, tryin' to let you know what was goin' down. I
mean...you know how much notice I always take of everything that Dobey tells
us...." Hutch couldn't restrain a grin as Starsky continued, "Must
get him to admit it some. He must've known. So why did he pick me? Must've realized
there'd be...uh....complications. Besides...think of all those people who'd
have loved the chance to do it. Why deprive them? Why me?"
Hutch was seeing it clear again.
"I was like you," Starsky told him.
"Believed it at the way it was told to me. Told him it would be my last
assignment." He paused a new thought occurred. "Hey.... I think
I've resigned! But then on the way to your place, it didn't take too long to
figure out a few things. From then on we just had to improvise...."
"You could've put your job on the line doin'
what you did," Hutch observed. "You're sayin' there was a
"They'll make some gesture at least.... CUBO
"So maybe you'll have to buy the lunch all
Hutch sat up straighter, stretching as far as the
car allowed. "Yeah?" A note of lively anticipation sounded in the
"I said buy it, not choose it.... Hey, got a
"Now c'mon.... There's no candy-bar machines
"We have to find a phone booth. We'll call
Dobey later. Let's see about tracking down Hug.... Can't go walkin' into the
Hutch dug into pockets. Together, they assembled
the necessary amount. He started the car, backed out of the parking slot,
swung on to the street, on the prowl, looking out for a quiet place which
also boasted a telephone.
"There...over to the left," Starsky
indicated. "We'll see about gettin' a roof over our heads, and then
we'll work out a few plans."
"And ask him about another car...."
Hutch called, as Starsky crossed the street.
He watched his partner head towards the booth.
confidence climbed with the realization that now they were working together
on this case too.
Right, he thought, we'll nail 'em....
"Deep in my heart direction lies and if we
follow that we move safely, and any road can lead us, carrying through
darkness our own secret climate of repose." Freya Stark