The rain beat steadily against the high windows
of the office block. It was not, Tessa thought, an unusual situation for
Portland. Sunny California was going to be different from Oregon. Jenny at
the neighboring desk voiced the same thought.
"Well, by this time tomorrow you won't be
suffering this kind of weather. You're going to come back to us with a real
Tessa turned back from the window. The greyness
outside matched her mood. "It's not exactly a vacation trip," she
"No." Jenny's tone was sympathetic.
Tessa breathed a resigned sigh. "It's just
something that has to be done some time. I keep telling myself it'll be good
to have it done and finished with. And it's time -- the lease has run out
and Estella is ready to move on."
"It's been -- how long?" Jenny
"It was March." Nearly a whole year now
since she'd learned the crushing, incredible news of what had happened to
Terry. She hadn't seen her sister often in the past few years but they'd
been close and it was a loss which would always leave a chasm in her life.
And now there was the inescapable task of closing
up the apartment where her sister been living, a task to be postponed no
longer. Having that responsibility behind her could feel like something
gained, a hurdle surmounted, a necessary stage in a shattering sequence of
The flight on the following day offered a kind of
hiatus during which she could admit to consciousness the hovering questions
which had for so long shadowed the back of her mind...the memories, all the
speculation and the conjecture. Her sister had had a life in LA, a life of
which Tessa knew few details. There had, naturally, been friends,
colleagues, a promising career just getting into its stride after all the
years of training and preparation. It all meant that there were people she
should see on this brief visit.
There were no mountains of dollars to be
assigned, no real estate: Terry had been launched on the worthwhile career
which she had chosen but as yet just starting out in it. There would be no
vast store of possessions but still enough to need her personal, loving
attention. Knowing her sister, Tessa could guess at a collection of
cherished pictures and prints; maybe some of those would find a caring home
at Marshal Center. There would surely be children there who still remembered
Miss Roberts. And more souvenirs might go to the people Terry had known,
worked with, played with, to friends she had made in her new California
Friends...she retained a strong recollection of
one man. Did he belong in that category? She recalled their only
meeting, just a few days after Terry's death. David.... Tessa had heard the
name more than once in the telephone conversations which had long been a
weekly observance between herself and Terry. David Starsky.... He had begun
to feature in their talk. The meeting at the time of the funeral had been
brief, and her perceptions of most things somewhat blurred, but she had
recognized that here was one person who seemed to share and understand her
own profound grief. She knew that Terry hadn't known him very long. How
well, how closely, they'd known each other was a matter of guesswork. But
David Starsky was one person she would contact some time before her return
flight. Until now she'd known only his name; now there was a need to know
more -- filling in gaps in her knowledge of her sister's life. The
circumstances of the shooting, the death and the subsequent trial had
attracted prominent cover in news media. Those, she knew. She was set, now,
to find out more.
Thinking of Prudholm and of the man against whom
Prudholm had sought revenge, carried her thoughts on to another. Socializing
had been farthest from her thoughts on that day of brilliant spring
sunshine, when there had been a host of people to meet, all new to her, new
names, new faces. But later she'd made the connection: Ken Hutchinson -- the
'Hutch' whom Terry also mentioned a couple of times in the telephone talk.
Now, as the plane neared LA, it felt like stepping back in time, picking up
threads that had seemed too heavy then, tying up some loose ends at last.
She would contact them again. True, she had no address but a call to the
police department should remedy that lack.
The 'fasten seat belts' instruction sounded over
the intercom. They would be landing in a few minutes more. Would Estalla be
there to meet her? Not that it really mattered: Estella wasn't actually her
favorite cousin. They didn't quarrel but they didn't share a lot of things
either. Estella's temporary occupation of the apartment had been a
convenient arrangement for both of them. She felt no special, eager
anticipation at the prospect of their reunion.
But the prospect of meeting David Starsky again
was something else, opening up channels for discovering what had been
happening in her sister's life. David, Terry had said...she would talk to
him. And to 'Hutch'.
The way telephone calls broke in all the time on
the paperwork was just one more fact of life. But most of them, Hutch
reflected, didn't take your mind away from your work the way this one had
just done. He left the file open in front of him on the desk but gave up the
attempt to concentrate on its contents. Even in those first few seconds,
there had been a quality in that voice which brought back the past...a past
that was still very much part of the present. It had somehow been no
surprise when the caller identified herself: "Tessa -- Tessa Roberts.
Remember? Terry's sister ...."
Hutch listened as she explained that she'd be in
LA for a few days. They exchanged routine civilities and inquiries before
she asked to speak to David.
"He's not here right now," Hutch told
her. "Should be in later. Let me make a note of the number and he can
call you back -- okay?"
Afterwards, he sat, lost in the memories,
wondering, going over yet again questions which had preoccupied him -- both
of us, he amended -- in the months since Terry's death. Questions on hold
for too long?
The past year had brought the changes and the
questions which went with them. Were they still looking for
answers...wanting answers Hutch wondered. Or had they given up on the
questions? Drifting through the days...in danger maybe of losing sense of
purpose about important things, just going with it all? Arrange a meeting,
she had suggested. Why? Why not? Here was a new angle which might serve to
bring some things into clearer focus. You could say that was overdue. He
knew it. Face it -- we both know it. Terry's death involved them both and
Starsky had never tried to shut him out from that fact.
"This is ours, partner," he'd
once said. Starsky had accepted the plain statement and had gone along with
it ever since that time, as if the words set a pattern for all the grief and
guilt to follow. That sharing was the first positive aspect to emerge from
"Don't let him change..."Hutch had
doubted his ability -- or his readiness -- to exercise that sort of
direction, but there had been no need to put it to any kind of test.
"Love them both." That was the easy part. No problem there.
Starsky had made that easy, like always. The constraints and the tensions
for which Hutch had been half-prepared had not materialized. Their own
center had held fast, finding deeper levels of truth and meaning, implicit
for a long time, now finding explicit acknowledgement and expression.
Yet in some ways in need of resolution, too.
Was Tessa's presence about to undermine a still
precarious balance, bring all the guilt back again in all its first
bitterness? Or might it provide impetus of resolution? He recalled Starsky's
confided grief..."I didn't know if I had the strength to remain on this
earth...." -- the guilt talking as well as the grief. And later the
affirmation...Starsky telling him -- "You...was you made the difference
"So this is how you don't get the paperwork
done when I can't be there to check on you." Starsky's voice broke in
on his musing.
"You're back early," Hutch began.
"Case was called earlier than
expected." Starsky tossed his jacket on the chairback and sat down on
the other side of the desk, loosening his tie and pointing to the stack of
files. "Looks as high as when I left. Thought you'd be through with all
those by now."
"He wishes." Hutch found the slip of
paper. "Got side-tracked. I took a call for you. Here --" He
passed over the note with the name and the number. "She wants you to
call back." He watched Starsky take in the details.
"Tess?" Starsky halted. "Tessa
Roberts ...." He looked up, frowning across at Hutch.
"We met her. Before." Hutch held his
partner's gaze. "She's Terry's sister."
"Yeah," Starsky said. "Here? In
LA?" He studied the paper again. "What does she want?"
"To talk to you, she said."
Starsky gave him another long look, then reached
for the telephone. Hutch listened while a couple of minutes saw the proposed
"We'll pick you up?" Starsky offered.
"Where're you staying?"
"I'm at the apartment."
"You mean -- Terry's place?"
"My cousin's been living there, but the
lease ends now. Packing up time. There are a few things you might like to
have. Anyway -- tomorrow? Around six? I have to be in Inglewood in the
afternoon." She added more specific details. "Maybe you could pick
me up there?"
"Sure." Fleetingly, Starsky wondered
whether any hint of relief showed in his utterance. How would it feel to see
Tessa in that once-familiar apartment? "We should be able to make it by
She hung up and he, too, replaced the receiver.
"You catch all that?" he asked.
"You've got a dinner date for tomorrow night."
Hutch hesitated. "You want to go?"
"Guess so." Starsky hesitated too.
"It's not at the place Terry used to have."
"That makes a difference?"
Starsky shrugged. "I don't know."
Another pause. "Why should it?"
"No reason -- or anyway, no logical
Starsky thought about it. "Logic doesn't
have all the answers, huh?"
Hutch thought about it too. "You want me to
"Yeah, I do." Starsky's response was
immediate. "Will you?"
They were aware of more to be said but the claims
of the working day closed out further exchanges, leaving the unvoiced
awareness as an insistent background to the routines.
They were back in Starsky's apartment that
evening before either of them mentioned Tessa's visit again.
"You know," Starsky said as, beer in
hand, they gravitated to the sofa after dinner, "you know, there was a
time when I'd have been scared to talk to her."
Hutch didn't need any ID there. "But not
now?" he questioned.
"Not now. It's okay -- I think. Okay even if
we were seeing her at Terry's place. It's all like...uh...getting your
balance back somehow." He raised his beercan in salutation.
"Know something? -- you did that."
"Welcome. You remember her -- from last
"She remembers. Wonder how she feels about
it all. If her sister had never met me...Wonder how often she thinks of that
"C'mon, life's full of coincidences. You
can't blame yourself for any of it."
Starsky found no reply to that. It was old
ground, ground they'd covered so often in the past year.
"Where'll we take her?" Hutch asked as
they drove across town next day.
"Well maybe not Huggy's this time...You
'Les Deux Rossignols' lacked the idiosyncratic
aura of the Pits, but it offered a pleasant enough rendezvous: informal,
tranquil, an oasis in the busy city.
"You picked a nice place," Tessa
commented appreciatively as the hostess led the way to a circular table, its
pale yellow rose echoing the linen cloth, with a view on the stoneflagged
courtyard with its little fountain.
"Hutch," Starsky said. "He knows a
million classy places."
Whatever misgivings he might have felt, the
rendezvous with Tessa seemed to be bringing no stress. Talk flowed easily
and generally around her impressions of LA, the contrasts with her Oregon
lifestyle, the plans for closing down the LA apartment.
Now Tessa leaned back, sipping coffee and
regarding her companions. Terry had been right, she thought: there was a
rapport here. Ordinarily it was something she might not have observed, but
remembering her sister's chance remarks, not only about David but about the
two of them, she saw clearly and remembered how Terry had seen it too. The
recollections returned of her sister's non-committal reply when Tessa had
asked, "This one's serious?" Terry had been silent for a moment.
Then, "Oh, Tess, I don't know. It's too soon maybe. He's nice -- great.
And he's dedicated to his job -- I think. Like me, huh? We're both good at
what we do."
Watching them now, Tessa felt that these two knew
one another very well, were comfortable together. Partners -- that was the
word she'd heard Terry use. It was an apt description. During the flight
from Portland she had been preoccupied with so many questions, but now it
seemed that none need be asked. She had wanted to meet people who had shared
Terry's life in those last weeks of her life, clearly, here were two who had
cared for her. She felt that Terry was in all their thoughts at this moment,
turning their trio into a quartet, somehow present with them.
Starsky broke the short silence which had
overtaken their conversation.
"What if --?" he began. He waited for
her to turn her head, look at him. "If she'd never met me --?"
"You shouldn't ever reproach yourself for
what happened," she reassured gently. "There was nothing you could
"Except stay out of her life."
"I don't believe she would have wanted that.
You hadn't known her more than a few weeks -- isn't that right?"
"Something like that. She told you--?"
"Enough. About knowing you -- both of you --
yes." She smiled, remembering. "About the way you used to help out
at the Center. Her work was always important to her."
"She was good with those kids," Hutch
"I went to see them yesterday at the
Center," Tessa said. "They're going to take a couple of her
pictures. Books, too. Guess she'd be happy for you to have some of those,
"A book?" Starsky shared a half-smile
with his partner. "Actually, she already gave me a book."
She saw Hutch smile too as he said, "She saw
the need, Starsk."
Starsky turned to Tessa, explaining. "'A
Thousand Ways to win at Monopoly'."
The three of them were still sharing the laughter
as they went into the evening sunlight.
"Drive you home?" Hutch asked.
"Thank you. It's -- but you know the
"We know," Starsky confirmed.
"Come in?" she invited as the Torino
drew up outside the apartment block. "There's something I'd like to
For a moment, Starsky was conscious of the reflex
hesitation but they found that the place was no longer the way either of
them remembered it. Moving-out time had turned it back into impersonal
living-space, giving it a temporary look with the mixture of discarded
items, the assortment of cartons and packing cases, furniture reduced to
Again there was a sense of relief that any
reminders were less difficult to deal with now. Partly, Starsky realized, it
was due to Tessa's own attitude: where he had half-expected recrimination,
bitterness, blame, there had been only understanding and reassurance. It
felt like reprieve, a kind of absolution, putting guilt to flight, putting
past events in sane and generous perspective.
He shook off the memories as Tessa introduced 'my
cousin, Estella.' The woman looked up from her book as Tessa began hunting
through a carton of books and papers. Starsky's smile faded as he realized
that he was the object of her close, unsmiling scrutiny. She had made no
conversational contribution beyond an indifferent acknowledgement of Tessa's
introduction. Now, her deliberate appraisal was obvious to both himself and
"So you knew Teresa." It was a
statement rather than a casual question. The accentuation was slight but,
nevertheless, marked. She contemplated him considering, for a further beat.
"I suppose when she moved here she met all kinds of people."
"Guess she did." The solace induced by
the time with Tessa felt suddenly precarious, threatened. "LA's a big
"And I understand you two work
together." Her sharp glance traveled from one to the other and back
again, comparing, assessing. "Surprising...One would judge that the
backgrounds are so different." She let the remark hang for a moment and
then added, with a suggestion of malice, "I imagine you must find you
have many -- uh -- problems."
"Sure we do," Starsky confirmed.
"All the time."
"Only background's never been one of
them," Hutch finished.
She seemed to have no more to say. They exchanged
glances as Starsky turned away to Tessa. "Need any help?"
"No." She rejoined them. "Here's
what I was looking for." The group photo showed two happy teams,
toasting each other in post-game root beer.
"Look --" Tessa held up the picture.
"You two --" there in the middle of the back row, Terry between
Starsky shared a reminiscent smile with his
partner. "We won."
"Would you like to have it?" she
"I sure would. Thanks."
"You gave her some good times, you
know," Tessa went on as they moved toward the door. She followed them
out into the hallway. "Don't pay any attention to Estella."
"We don't," Hutch said quickly.
"It's just the way she is. She didn't even
know Terry very well. She likes to blame people."
Starsky nodded. "She may have a point there.
Hey -- it's okay. Forget it." His glance me Hutch's again. "It's
not a problem."
"I'm glad we could meet like this," she
said as they parted. "Thank you. For everything.'
"Could have been a lot worse," Starsky
commented when the Torino had been five minutes on its way. Both of them, he
knew, had been aware of the potential for reviving past tragedy.
"It was okay," Hutch agreed. He turned
his head to look directly at Starsky. "Feel better now?" The
question was serious, no casual enquiry.
"I feel as if someone sorta just lifted a
mountain off me. Crazy, huh? I know, I know -it's what you've been tellin'
me. But it took something like tonight to really know it. That make
"Laying the ghosts," Hutch said softly.
"She's a nice lady. Has a funny cousin though."
"Her? What does she know? About
"I'm glad we could talk to Tessa. She could
understand a lot of things. You could tell."
"Like who else?"
"Like you for one. And like Terry. We got
Ambivalence had no place here. Liberation
superseded any sense of the old, dragging need for atonement. Whether by
design or by happy accident, Tessa had achieved that.
Starsky took the final turn which would bring
them to Hutch's place.
"Nearly home, partner." He turned he
head to meet Hutch's answering look. "So -- you about ready for the big
It felt like an end to hunger. Not an end to
questions. Questions went with being alive.
But meeting Tessa had brought
Courage, loyalty, love...all these they had known
for so many years, years, perhaps, of vigil, of waiting, prelude to this
deeper level of knowing and sharing, bestowing a zest for living.
Bonus...a seal on all that had gone before.
Prelude to everything that was still to come.
"To everything there is a season
And a time for every purpose under the heavens:
A time to be born and a time to die;
A time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to break down and a time to build up;
A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance..."