A LETTER . . . TO A MOTHER
"Dear Rachel -
Thought it was time for another letter to let you know how Dave is doing. (Has it actually been a month since you returned to New York?) When we're on the phone there's always something I forget to mention - until I'm on duty or in the shower.
First and foremost, he's improving rapidly . . . at least that's what the doctors and nurses all say. I honestly think your last visit did him a world of good, even if he did sleep through most of it. I know you sure made me feel better about life and everything. Thanks.
Dave's able to drink without help now, and manage some soft stuff I won't even call edible. Believe it or not, he's so glad to be off all those feedings and IVs that I think he'd be willing to eat baby food the rest of his life. Not that that's going to happen; yesterday he asked me if El Rancho Tacos was still open, and I assured him it was. You should have seen his face! All smiles, his eyes scrunched up at the corners.
He's ambulatory, too, for short periods of time. The nurses are really good with him . . . like most women, they can't resist that Starsky charm. Anyway, last night they let me take him down to the Gift Shop . . . he wanted to buy some gum. Five packs, all different. Guess this sort of information is dumb, but you told me to tell you everything.
The doctors aren't saying when he'll be released . . . you know how they are about good news. What is good news is that they're certain they got out all the fragments of the bullet that hit his rib and split before half of it exited the wound. He's going to be written up in some article about trauma because it's a miracle that the bullet didn't sever the pulmonary artery.
Please don't think I'm trying to frighten you - we talked about that all night, didn't we? Dave will never say anything for fear of worrying you, but it's the other way around, isn't it? I mean worrying because you don't know. I remember my feelings that first week - when nobody knew if he was going to make it. Don't know what I would've done if I hadn't had Gunther to track down.
Wow! Wish you were here right now . . . just had a bad flashback and my hands are shaking. I still see the psychologist twice a month even though he pounded it into my head that David's injuries weren't the result of my negligence. You know me. Dave and I always used to talk about what we'd do if one of us got badly hurt, but it was only talk. Nothing prepares you for the reality of it all.
He got your card . . . the one with the picture of you and Nicky. Nick's put on a bit of weight since he started dating Hannah, hasn't he? Well, you said she was a good cook. I'm glad he's straightened up; Dave was really concerned. (So was I, but don't let Nick know - he firmly believes I'll remove all those curls if he ever strays again.)
The weather has turned warm so Dave made me promise I'd take the Torino out for a long drive this Sunday. I've made a scrapbook of all the repair bills, complete with photos of the striped tomato's recovery. Between you and me, I think he's more worried about it than about himself. I understand a little more how he feels since you said your family didn't have a car when he was a kid. No wonder he went to work in his uncle's lot! Does anyone else love their car as much as he does?
Last time we talked you said you didn't know how to repay me for the plane ticket. Please, Rachel, don't even waste time thinking about it. If the circumstances had been reversed, Dave would've done the same for my dad. When I think of how many times you held my hand, how often you insisted on cooking for me, I'm the one who should be worried about repaying you. Besides, when he's discharged I want you to come out for at least two weeks to care for him. It probably won't be for another ten days, but we can discuss it when I call you Friday night.
Dave had a visitor yesterday, a lady cop we worked with on a case. She brought him some flowers and a puzzle with its own special board. The puzzle's a pepperoni pizza . . . one of Dave's favorite meals, as you know from experience. When I stopped by at lunch time, he was trying to fit the middle together. He must be the only person who works from the center out on a damn puzzle! Maybe it's because he's left-handed, who knows? Anyway, he did have a point when he said since there weren't any corners what was the difference? As usual, his logic makes sense, sort of.
You asked me about the scars. Well, right now they're awful, and there's no way I can lie to you by saying they aren't. But when I asked the doc about them, he seemed amused by my concern. Obviously from the school of "better a live patient, etc . . ." He told me that in about a year they'll barely be visible because his chest hair will be covering a lot of the repairs. He even said one exit wound will only be a dark mark and that the other two will fade in a few years, especially when he gets a good tan.
Dave said he was glad it wasn't me because I haven't got enough hair to cover up any scars! A sure sign his sense of humor's coming back - weird as ever.
Oh, your sister, Rosie, brought him a pair of pajamas last Saturday; heavy black silk with little white squiggles all over. Your son shook his head, swallowed, then cool as you please put the top on (with some help from yours truly) so she could see how it looked. I wish you could have seen him - there he sat, mid-section bandaged, skinny as a rail, big eyes in that long face, and he looked great. The pajamas did smell of mothballs, though. Rosie said they'd been put away for a long time, and that you should tell me why. Anyway, Starsky fell in love with them, so I'm airing them for him.
The barber gave Dave a trim and a good shave and he felt a lot better about himself after that. Do you really want to know all this stuff? I don't know what to tell you and what to leave out - so I'm doing sort of stream-of-consciousness writing.
Uh, I had the cleaning lady give his place a workout - the kind you'd do if you were here, but I figure this way if he's released in a hurry, nobody has to rush over and scrub everything for him. See, I'd have him here with me but the stairs will be too much for him at first. I remember when I had that plague - felt like I was living on the tenth floor for a long time.
You asked about Gunther. Well, the LAPD got lucky for a change. His high-priced lawyers couldn't get him sprung from jail. I understand he's not in the best of health, but when they tried to say he had "diminished capacity" the old goat blew his stack! He yelled he was sharper and smarter than the rest of us and he'd see us all in hell - me, especially. Still, his fangs have been pulled and his organisation is unravelling like a moth-eaten sweater.
I'll be honest, Rachel, if the circumstances had been different, I think I would've shot him down like a rabid dog, but for all our sakes I just couldn't. I want him to stay behind bars, trapped, like Dave's been trapped in the hospital. I saw fear in Gunther's eyes when I arrested him, and that's been the only satisfaction I've had so far.
Enough on that gloomy subject! I hope you like your birthday present (Dave suggested it) and that you get lots of use out of it. He said your favorite color was blue, so I tried to match his eyes. If it doesn't fit, send it back and tell me what's wrong and I'll try to get another one.
Thanks for your letter. It means a lot to be considered a "son" by someone like you. My mom was very fond of Dave, and was extremely grateful to him for saving my life. I miss her a lot but didn't know how much until you came out and began fussing over me. Enclosed is a picture of Dave and me at the beach . . . you can tell people I'm from the Nordic part of the family!
It's midnight - time to turn in. Dave was watching some trashy monster movie when I stopped by to say good-night. He's getting better every day, Rachel, and I give you my word I won't let anything happen to him ever again. You know I would have gladly been the one who took those bullets if there'd been a choice. As it is, I'm just grateful his life was spared and he's going to be fine.
With lots of love,
P.S. That scratch on my hand is all better. Don't worry so much.
* * * *
Rachel Starsky sat in her bright-curtained kitchen and reread the letter. On the tablecloth lay a picture of her son and his partner. She had studied it over and over, remembering other pictures of them together. She eyed the pair critically, noting Davey's deep tan, his laughing face. She smiled, imagining his mood at the time, not really himself, but, rather, someone who had been deeply hurt in some way.
She turned the picture over to check the date, going so far as to flip back through the calendar to see if she had noted anything else of interest at that time. She clucked; this was taken right after Ken had recovered from the bad soup. She'd made herself a note to be sure to send him a get-well card.
Her glance drifted back to the open package beside her, and she put the calendar down to lift out her birthday present. It was almost the color of Davey's eyes - Hutch had done a good job of matching them. Cashmere, with a nice pocket to tuck her Kleenex in; she knew she would wear it for years.
Such extravagance . . . but Davey kept telling her that it was Hutch's way and not to worry so much. With loving hands she gently touched the soft knit; it was rather like kitten fur. She would wear it to dinner at the Rosens' tomorrow night for her birthday. Nicky and Hannah would be there and she would have good news for them about Davey.
The kettle began to whistle so she laid the sweater back in its box, refolded the letter and added it to her little stack of notes and cards that now filled a wicker basket, each one memorized and appreciated. Hutch never forgot to write. He was a good boy, truly like her own son.
As she bustled around the kitchen, making her tea and toast, something occurred to her, and she hurried to her desk, gathering notepaper and stamps. She knew what was wrong with Hutch! And she also knew the cure. What the boy needed was a week or two here with her, away from the hospital, away from the job. Her Davey was doing all right; a nice lady thought enough of him to call. Plus the fact that Rosie would be more than happy to fill in the gap left by Hutch's absence.
Nodding her pleasure, Rachel sat down again, uncapping her pen. First a note to thank Hutch, then one to that nice Captain Dobey . . . he would do what was right when she pointed out how tired Davey's partner looked. Tea and toast forgotten, Rachel pressed the pen firmly on to the paper, her cheeks flushing with excitement.
"My dear boy," she wrote, "thank you for the good news about Davey . . . and for the beautiful sweater which I am going to wear tomorrow . . ."
She smiled; it would be delightful to have someone to fuss over, someone who really didn't need to be nursed, just mothered a little bit. Her Davey had told her all about the beautiful but reserved Mrs. Hutchinson and she was certain her son's partner had missed out on a lot of good, old-fashioned spoiling.
Well, if Hutch thought her Davey was persuasive, he hadn't seen anything yet! A little chuckle escaped as she continued writing. Maybe Hannah had a girlfriend or two who wouldn't object to entertaining such a good-looking young man. Nothing serious, mind you: Hutch would be here to rest, but she knew how it was with young folk.
". . . so you see, Hutch, there isn't a single excuse for you not to come for a visit. Please, talk to Davey - he'll even tell you to fly right back here. Nobody ever had a better friend, but you've worn yourself out in the process.
Just a week - that's all.