SOUND OF SILENCE
"There better be something I can do!"
Maybe the words were for himself rather than for
Huggy or for Dobey. Riding the elevator to the basement garage became a
process of stepping back into a world which held other people again, but the
shocked, cold loneliness remained, something those others could do nothing
to dispel. The sense of isolation was part of the private, enclosed world of
nightmare which he now inhabited with his partner. The wall of silence had
risen between himself and all the others -- save one, and the two of them, it
seemed, were apart in their own frozen stillness -- had been so from that
second when he had know what he must find on the Torino's far side. Only
five minutes before, there had been the exchange of trivia, carefully
designed to put an opponent off his stroke without actually cheating...the precious
normality of plans for next day. And then, in moments, the
phony police car, his own sharp warning, his own unanswered shout -- the last
real sounds his spontaneous words.
Every utterance afterwards had been, he knew, no
more than the programmed repetition of some automaton. "Massive damage...."
The phrase took hold. It was as if, by repeating it aloud, he
could begin to take in the impossible truth which they had always known that
bottom line could hold. Saying it made it begin to be intelligible.... But
the numbed unacceptance stayed....
Maybe it was Dobey's words that had pushed him
back into a kind of life. Deliberate? Taking into account work still needing
to be done -- urgently -- beyond the hospital? So Dobey had won that point?
the intolerable offer producing the calculated effect? "I already have
a partner!" True. So hang on to that.... And "there's always
hope." Always? Even now? So doing something, even lacking any real
guidelines, seemed the next necessary step in a world that had come to a
stop, in this emptiness which might soon be absolute.... It wasn't absolute
-- yet. Or did we already use up the last reprieve?
Certain old illusions were vanishing with the
speed of light...all these crazy notions of going by the book. Hutch
recognized, with total clarity, that there, in that basement garage, he
could have killed. By design. Efficiently, accurately, fast. His two shots
past the hitman's head had been in full seriousness, no empty threat. For
the first time ever, the rage and the grief of loss would have made it no
problem at all to ensure that the next shot was final. For the first time,
now, he understood, not by any route of rationalization but with emotional
impact, involvement, how Starsky had felt when he had gone after the
kidnapper's car that day. The vivid memory, never far below the surface,
returned...lying there on the sidewalk in the shattered glass, bleeding,
breathless, opening his eyes with effort as Starsky had held him, called his
name, had needed to do something to repudiate what he had seen. This was
knowledge from the inside, cutting out as irrelevant the old, reasoned
arguments, short-circuiting all those in this once-for-all sureness of
vision of essentials and priorities.
Fleetingly, he recalled another time, another
place, from years back...his partner's unspoken empathy at the time of
Corman's shooting...sitting there on the cabin floor, watching dumbly as
Starsky took charge, his steadying glance from across the room substituted
for his sustaining hand, as the telephone call was made. And then, only a
little time later, his own grief joined with Starsky's when Lonnie Craig had
died. Me and thee. Still? And for how much longer?
The untasted coffee grew cold beside the
telephone as he reached for the hospital number...there better be
something I can do. Saying it for me...for you too, Starsk. He punched
the number, dropping the phone as he took in the first words, letting the
ping-pong ball talisman bounce away. There better be something. He was out of
the door, the words a counterpoint to concentrated purpose, driving out
every other thought.
Better be something.... He burst through the
silently swinging doors, halted as he caught up with the little group at the
observation window. Dared to face the consultant as he came towards them.
"Alive -- still alive --" Hang in there,
babe. He turned back to his partner, the words beginning to register. Say
them over -- alive. He leaned his forehead against the cool glass of the
partition. Hi, Starsk.... He was watching the machine, devouring,
absorbing, the pattern of the heartbeat. Hey -- how about I write my name on
We made it...this far.... Told him -- I
already have a partner....