Hutch leaned against the filing cabinet,
listening, and finding no answers to what he heard. He'd been trying to
provide enough of those during the fifteen tough minutes on the witness
stand. No one had wanted to listen to him then. Why should anything be
different now? He rested his chin on one hand, drumming the fingers of the
other on the cabinet top.
Drumming...a spinning pinwheel and drums on the
edge of the ocean.... His thoughts went back to that first encounter with
Lionel Rigger. He sought us out that day. And we never made him any
promises, never tried to raise any false hopes...did we?
Starsky was standing a few feet away, hands in
pockets, equally silent after Dobey had made the introductions -- 'the two
investigating officers'. It felt like a strangely colorless and inadequate
description of their part in this.
The hopes based on that first confident strategy
had been shattered in the past quarter of an hour. Dobey had always seen it
coming, had told them from the beginning: without identification, the charge
could be booted out of court. He would understand their motivation, of that
Hutch was sure, but that didn't mean he would go along with it all the way.
The text-book arguments were all on the other side; the fragile, human
factors had no hope here of achieving any kind of counter-balance.
Tensions which had been growing over months --
years even -- seemed at this moment to run together in intolerable
culmination. Disillusion? Or simply reality crashing in to annihilate a
stupid optimism? Hutch wanted no more. The talk was leading nowhere he could
follow. Get out...away from this place
Starsky had scarcely moved since the talk began. My
partner immobilized? Must be a first. What he heard next immobilized
him: Starsky's voice in flat response -- "Okay. We hear you." He
sent an incredulous look in his partner's direction. You too? Starsky
wasn't looking at him. You going their way? Admitting no alternative?
Alternative? There was one, at least, he could think of. Get out of this
room, this whole set-up. There were more important considerations than
protocol or procedure. He made for the door, paused on the threshold long
enough to hear Starsky's question: "Who takes the responsibility?"
More questions, more talk. It was futile. He didn't wait to hear an answer,
but left them all there, despising them and the system they represented. And
you're a part of it too, he reminded himself...one more bitter and
inescapable fact. But he needn't stay for more of this. Let Starsky follow
if he liked. Right now, Hutch didn't care one way or the other.
He took a rapid course along the hall to the
elevators. Get out of this place -- breathe a different air. From some sort
of habit, he walked on slowly to where the Torino was parked and stood for a
while leaning against its glossy side, half-tempted to take out his car key
and drive away. He looked up at the sound of steps.
"You took your time."
Starsky didn't reply but unlocked the door and
sat waiting in the driver's seat. Finally -- "You coming or not?"
he asked. The second alternative held a powerful attraction. Hutch remained
standing where he was. Another minute and Starsky switched on the engine.
Expressionless, he met Hutch's sour look. Last chance? Hutch joined him in
the car and Starsky drove out into the street, heading for Venice Place. The
silence between them was leaden, weighted with thoughts unspoken yet as
resonant as if they had been shouted.
Once inside the apartment, Hutch asked abruptly,
"Why? Why'd you come here? Thinking of taking the rest of the day
"No." Starsky walked past him into the
kitchen. "Got any beer?"
Hutch gestured toward the icebox. "Check it
out," he recommended curtly. "You need an invitation all of a
Starsky deposited a couple of cans on the
counter. "There's not a lot of time," he mentioned.
"So we'd better talk."
Hutch looked bleakly back at him.
"Talk?" His tone was bitter. "What's to talk about? It's all
decided -- fixed -- or hadn't you noticed?"
"And you can't just walk away from it,"
"Meaning that I just did?"
Starsky moved across to the sofa, loosening his
tie as he leaned back. "Meaning -- this lunch hour isn't going to last
forever. We're due back there an' they're going to want some answers."
"One answer anyway. You didn't give it to
Starsky's patience snapped. "No! And if you
"You should know better than that!"
Starsky was unappeased.
"Right, and I do. And you should know that.
Okay?" Hutch stopped prowling around the room and dropped into a chair.
"Why are we talking like this?"
"You have to ask? The system -- screws you
up. And no -- I didn't tell them what they wanted to know."
"Thought we just got that clear."
"Didn't stop the questions coming. They'll
be asking again after the recess. And anyway, by now, McLellan's goons could
be making their own educated guesses -- don't always wait for
They contemplated the latest development the case
had brought while cold realism reminded that this had always been the bottom
line. The remembrance was strong: the way Dobey had spelled out the
warnings. But remembrance was no consolation. Rationalizations didn't help.
"I should have stayed," Hutch said.
"Forget the guilt trip," Starsky said
decisively. "Staying wouldn't have changed anything. Nothing we say now
is going to make a difference." He checked his watch. "Dobey needs
to see us. Better move."
"Not only him. But him first.... An'
The prospect of the imminent, essential interview
was heavy...moment of truth. There had always been the knowledge that the
whole affair could come to this: had they been too ready to disregard that
reality? They were a part of a system which, within the hour, was going to
be putting its tenacious requirement of material evidence, demanding
information relevant to the case. Say it the way it is, Hutch thought...it's
called naming. Naming your informant in the knowledge of what that implies.
He got up to wander into the kitchen. "You
want lunch?" he asked. He picked up a beer and tossed the can over to
Starsky, opened the other for himself. The refrigerator yielded half a pizza
and Starsky joined him to share it, standing at the kitchen table.
"Have to contact him, tell him...."
Hutch brooded over the new necessities the morning had thrown up.
"We're gonna have to find some way to take
care of him." Starsky verbalized the situation they both recognized as
top priority. "His family, too."
"Easy as pie," he had blithely assured
Dobey. But it wasn't. Never had been. The initial optimism, born of the zeal
to nail Federal Judge Raymond McLellan, now seemed transformed into
unthinking readiness to gamble with a life. They'd taken their chance on
that. And they'd lost. Or, rather, the loser was going to be Lionel Rigger,
and no logical arguments, fresh from the manual, could compensate for that
loss. 'Easy as pie' belonged to another time, another life. "Can't
believe I ever said that," Starsky said now as they prepared to leave.
"And who takes the responsibility?"
They had no answer for that one. "Who? We
got him into this." True. But not the whole truth. Rigger wanted it.
He knew the risks, too. But the plain facts were no help at all.
Their reaction to the information on McLellan had not been wrong. 'Protect
and serve' -- that also counted for something, and putting him out of
business was one way to do that.
Another bottom line and a vital one. Yet it still
wasn't that simple. The human complexities persisted.
The return drive was silent too, while the same
thoughts occupied them both. Half-formed questions had crystallized this
day. Situations long implicit had taken the spotlight, become explicit,
finally demanding resolution. More questions than an informant's name were
clamoring for confrontation. The morning had acted as a catalyst, awakening
some things dormant too long. True, too, of this lunch break...different
from a hundred others, marking a final break from past patterns and
assumptions. They were aware, as they drove, of the kind of break that had
crossed a divide to some point of no return.