The Picture In His Pocket
By Maquis Leader
Author’s note: Missing scenes from The Set Up.
Hutch sat down on a thick furniture pad, leaning against the inside of the trailer and settling in as the truck began to move.
Joe Durniak stared toward the front of the trailer for a time before turning to Hutch. “Davey’s a cop.” He laughed.
“Is that a surprise?”
“More than you know, kid.” Another laugh, soft and bitter. “More than you know.”
There were gaps in Starsky’s past that Hutch knew nothing about. Joe Durniak represented a sizeable chunk. Starsky’s father was yet another. He could probably dig it out of the old man, but if Starsky wanted him to know, then he’d tell him one of these days. If not, then he didn’t need to know.
“Maybe it’s not a surprise.” Joe looked toward the front of the trailer again. “Maybe his pop headed him that way.”
“Starsky is a good guy – a good cop.”
“I’m sure he is.” Joe nodded. “If he’s anything like his old man – he’s a hell of a cop.”
Hutch smiled. “He is.”
Joe was quiet again. He looked Hutch over carefully, squinting slightly.
The old man was making him nervous, staring at him like he was reading his life story right off his face. But Hutch sat quietly; it wasn’t the first time he’d been under close scrutiny. And under much worse conditions.
He’d heard that Durniak had been an expert at sizing up up men all his life – toted up their worth and how dangerous they were. According to legend, Durniak had had an uncanny ability to read people since he was kid – at least until he’d missed the snake in his own house.
“You love Davey?”
“What?” He gaped at Durniak.
“Not like that.” The other man waved a hand dismissively. “Like a brother – do you love Davey?”
“Starsky’s my friend.” Hutch didn’t know why Durniak wanted to know, and he wasn’t comfortable revealing his feelings to someone he didn’t know – or trust.
“You’re good friends.” A shrewd look crossed Durniak’s face. “Davey trusts you.”
“A partnership works better that way.”
“Tell me about it.” Leaning back against the cool metal, Joe closed his eyes.
The old man lapsed into silence again and Hutch shifted, trying to get more comfortable in the swaying trailer.
“I got some things I want you to give Davey. Not now – wait ‘till later.” Joe opened his eyes. “I don’t want him to have them now. Wait ‘till I’m gone.”
“What things?” As far as he knew, Durniak didn’t have anything more than the clothes on his back.
“Nothing bad, blondie.” Reaching inside his jacket, Joe pulled out a fat envelope. “You can look if you want.”
Hutch took the envelope, turning it over in his hands.
“Go on, it’s all right. I got nothin’ to hide anymore.”
That was true enough. If Durniak had anything dangerous, the Feds would have taken it from him. Opening the envelope, he slid a handful of photographs out. The top one was of a much younger Joe Durniak with his arm around another man’s shoulders. A man Hutch recognized from pictures Starsky had shown him.
“That’s Michael – Davey’s pop.”
The resemblance was strong – Hutch recognized the smile and the eyes. He smiled as he realized that the dark hair looked as if it would have curled if it were a bit longer. Even if Hutch hadn’t known who he was, there was no doubt that this man was Starsky’s father.
“Looks like him, doesn’t he? Like’d to had a heart attack when I saw him standing there.” Joe laughed. “Jesus – thought it was Mikey standing there! I ain’t seen Davey in years – shoulda known he’d grow up like his old man.”
Hutch sorted through the pictures. They were all of Joe and Michael Starsky, a few were of Michael alone, and to Hutch’s surprise, Starsky’s mother was in some of the pictures as well. Judging from the clothing and the cars, they had all been taken in the 1940’s.
It was obvious that Durniak had been friends with Starsky’s parents. Which contradicted his statement of representing everything Starsky’s father had fought against. But then again, Durniak paying for Michael Starsky’s funeral contradicted that as well.
“Why are you giving these to him?” Sliding the pictures back into the envelope, Hutch laid the package on his lap. He wasn’t completely sure that these pictures would be something Starsky would want to see. There was no way he’d hurt Starsky just to help salve a guilty old man’s conscience.
“They’re gonna kill me, kid. You think they’ll let me talk?” Joe spread his hands out questioningly. “Do ya?”
“We’re going to make sure – “
“I shoulda gave these to him years ago. I just couldn’t bear to part with ‘em, you know?”
Hutch took a long look at Durniak. A man he knew to have killed countless men on his way to the top of the mob heap. “You don’t strike me as the sentimental type, Joe.”
“I’m not, blondie.” The smile was sad. “Michael was like my own brother. I tried to protect him – but I failed him.” Emotions played over the old man’s face. Love, regret, sadness. “It’s ate at me for the last twenty years. The one good thing I had in my rotten life, and I let him get whacked.”
Those feelings Hutch could understand. His own life was full of mistakes and regrets – but his friendship with Starsky made them all insignificant and unimportant.
“Did you know they were going to kill him?” Hutch asked gently.
For a moment, Joe seemed far away, as though he were replaying the day in his mind. “No. I didn’t find out until it was too late.”
“But you tried to save him?” The grief on Durniak’s face surprised him. Hutch hadn’t thought the old man had a heart, let alone one that could feel such anguish.
“I made them pay – you can tell Davey that if he ever wonders.” Joe smiled, looking through Hutch into the past. “I made them pay.”
Hutch shivered. He could only imagine what Durniak had done to the men who’d murdered his friend.
“You gotta be wondering about me and Mikey.”
“A little.” If a little meant that he was ready to get on his knees and beg.
“What’d’ya know about Davey’s pop? Not much I bet.” Joe laughed, but it was a bitter sound. “There’s things about Mikey that Davey don’t know – should never know.”
“And you’re going to tell me?” On the other hand, maybe he didn’t want to know.
“Hell no!” He glared at Hutch. “Mikey didn’t want Davey to know – he didn’t want him to ever know!”
Joe reached into his jacket pocket again and pulled out a small photograph. “This one I’m keepin’. Tell ‘em to bury it with me – you got that, kid?”
“I got it.”
“This is a copy – “ He showed the picture to Hutch before putting it back in his pocket. “You got the real one there.”
It was the first picture he’d seen, the one of Joe and Starsky’s father standing together and smiling at the camera. “I’ll make sure it’s buried with you.”
“I’m not gonna tell ‘em nothin’ about Mikey. It’s all dead and done – buried with him.” Joe shook his finger at Hutch. “One question about Mikey and I don’t say another word – those Feds better understand that!”
“Why would they bring Michael into this?”
“They shouldn’t. Everybody who knew Mikey is dead or too old to care anymore.” He rubbed a hand over his face. “But the Feds – they know everything – no matter how old. Nothing’s sacred. They see Davey’s name – they could go, hey don’t that name ring a bell? Ain’t that name something to old Joey?”
“Starsky and I won’t be with you when you testify.” Hutch wondered if what Durniak was saying was true. Would they dig that far back into Durniak’s past? “Besides, you’re their witness. You’ve already agreed to tell them everything you know – why would they risk it?”
Durniak looked thoughtful, nodding. “’S right. An old man worries, you know? Davey’s a good kid – I don’t want him to get hurt.”
Hutch smiled, ducking his head so that Durniak wouldn’t see. “He’s pretty tough.”
“Like his old man.” Joe leaned back in his chair. “I’ll tell you a little bit, some things you can tell Davey later – once I’m dead.”
“Joe – Mr. Durniak, they’re not going to get to you. We’ve taken too many precautions.”
“Me and Mikey – we met when we was kids. Just a couple of punks trying to survive.” He gave a snort of laughter. “Mikey was trying to survive. Me – I was trying to get ahead.”
“He was sleepin’ on the streets, stealing food. My pop caught him stealing clothes off our line.” Joe laughed again, this time a happy and lighter sound. “He put up a heck of a fight. This scrawny, dirty kid – he bites my pop and gets loose – runs right into my mother and knocks himself on his ass!”
Hutch laughed with him at the picture of a young and dirty boy barreling headlong into Joe Durniak’s mother.
“Ma wouldn’t let Pop beat him. ‘Paulie, he’s a little boy’, ‘Paulie, he looks hungry’.” Joe mimicked his mother’s voice. “And she takes him inside and cleans him up, feeds him, and puts him in my old clothes. So what was Pop gonna do?”
Starsky had told him once that his father didn’t have a family, but he’d never said that Michael had grown up with Durniak’s family. Of course, Starsky had never mentioned Durniak at all. Hutch felt like he was lost in the middle of a soap opera with no script. “So Michael was an orphan?”
“Nah, his family – well, it’s a long story.” Joe glanced toward the front of the trailer. “He don’t need to know that part.”
“How old was he?”
“Oh, geez… we were both thirteen? Maybe fourteen? Just kids.” Turning his gaze back to Hutch, Joe smiled at the memories. “But we stuck together, me and him. We worked together real well, you know?”
“I can – “ Hutch looked toward the front of the trailer and smiled, thinking of his friend and partner. “I can see that.”
“We was good together. Mikey, he liked takin’ care of things – takin’ care of people.” Durniak looked thoughtful for a moment. “Mikey’d been a hell of a good cop if things had been different.”
If there was a connection between ‘taking care of things’ as Durniak had put it, and being a good cop, Hutch wasn’t seeing it. “He and you – worked together?”
“Yeah, but – “ He jabbed a finger at Hutch. “Mikey changed. They say people can’t change – but they can. Mikey did.”
Hutch kept silent. He was a firm believer in people taking control of their lives and making a change. The mob, however, saw things differently.
“He wanted a different life – a better life for his family. He got married and then the boys came. And Mikey didn’t want this life for them. He wanted better.”
“So he – changed?”
“Yeah, and it was all right – tough – but all right.” Joe shook his head. “But then he started thinkin’ that everybody should have a different life. I tried to tell him. ‘Mikey, keep your mouth shut’. I told him a thousand times. But he wouldn’t listen. Stubborn bastard.”
“That’s why they killed him?”
“I tried to smooth it over.” The other man said sadly. “Told ‘em that Mikey wasn’t going to get anybody organized – and if he did – then a little talk and maybe a busted head or two and people would fall right back in line.”
Hutch felt for the old man, caught in the middle between his friend and his way of life.
“I got there too late.” Joe looked down at his hands. “All I could do was promise him I’d take care of things. Try to keep the boys out of the business.”
“You were there when he died?” Starsky had told him that his father had died alone.
“They left him layin’ in the street. He was just barely alive.” A small, sad smile. “Stubborn bastard.”
“Starsky doesn’t know that you were there. He thinks his father died alone.”
“I guess nobody told him. You should tell him, kid.”
“Me?” Hutch shook his head. “That’s something you should tell him – I wasn’t there.”
“Nah, it’d be better comin’ from you.” Joe waved the suggestion away. “Tell him I was there for his old man.”
Hutch looked at the envelope full of pictures. “Why don’t you give these to him?”
“I don’t think he’d like that. You give them to him, kid. He won’t turn them down if they come from you.”
He didn’t think it was likely that Starsky would turn down pictures of his father, no matter where they came from. Hutch tucked the envelope carefully into the inside pocket of his jacket. “You’re wrong, Joe. But if it makes you feel better, then I’ll give them to him for you.”
“You tell him I loved his old man and that I wish it’d been me they gunned down. I got no wife, no kids – “ Joe gestured to himself. “Michael was a good man, he deserved better. Davey deserved better.”
“He’s done better.” Hutch said firmly.
“Yeah.” The smile was proud this time. “A cop?” Joe began to laugh. “Mikey must be sitting up there and laughing his butt off. Too bad I won’t get to ask him.”
Hutch looked away. There was no way to answer that. Durniak had revealed a hidden side of himself, but Hutch had no doubt the old man’s soul was weighted down with his crimes.
“You give them to him.” Joe said again. “After they kill me, he’ll need something good.”
“They’re not going to kill you.”
“Huh, just wait and see, blondie.” He sighed. “I don’t know how I made it this far.”
“Because we’ve taken every precaution to keep you safe.” Hutch assured him.
“Yeah, sure, kid. But let me tell ya – “ Joe leaned forward, staring into Hutch’s eyes. “If I’d had Mikey with me all these years – I wouldn’t be sittin’ in the back of this dirty trailer waitin’ to spill my guts to the Feds.”
A slow smile curled Durniak’s lips, and Hutch shivered.
“I’d be on a sunny beach somewhere with a pretty girl – and the Feds’d be squeezing some other poor sap.”
He leaned back and closed his eyes, the smile still on his face.
The shiver spread, and Hutch rubbed his hands up and down his arms in an attempt to chase it away.
“Did you get everything taken care of?” Hutch asked as Starsky hung the phone up.
“Yep. Got a marble headstone and everything.” Starsky set the phone back on the table next to the sofa. “And they put the picture in his pocket like you asked.”
“How’d you know about that anyway?” He shifted on the sofa to face Hutch. “How’d you know he had that picture of him and Pop?”
“He told me about it – showed it to me actually.” Hutch took the envelope out of his jacket pocket. “He wanted me to give these to you.”
“What is it?” Taking the envelope, Starsky looked it over warily.
“Just open it.”
“You’re sure it won’t bite me?” He opened the envelope, and his eyes widened as he saw the pictures. “This is my father – all these are – “
“Joe held on to them.” Hutch smiled at the expression on Starsky’s face. Finding pirate’s gold wouldn’t have made him any happier. “He said he couldn’t bear to part with them.”
“Joey had these?” He looked carefully at each picture. Pictures he’d never seen before of his father and Joey. “Look how young they are.”
“Joe said to tell you that he loved your father and – “ Hutch hesitated as Starsky looked up at him. “He said that he wished that he’d been the one killed instead.”
Starsky leaned back and looked through the pictures again. “I never understood why Pop was friends with Joey. He was a mobster and Pop hated them. And here was this guy bringing over Christmas presents and stopping by for Ma and Pop’s anniversary. And Pop liked him.”
“I think that Joe and your father grew up together and became friends – good friends – and then just chose different paths.” When Starsky looked up at him again, Hutch smiled. “But their friendship was still there.”
“You can’t choose who you love.” Starsky returned the smile, but there was a sadness to it. “Joey said I didn’t know if I should love him or hate him, and he was right. I loved Joey, he was funny, he was like one of my uncles or somethin’. And after Pop was killed – I saw him as one of the men who’d done it. They were mobsters and so was he. It was his fault – and I hated him for it.”
“But it wasn’t his fault, Starsk. He tried to protect your father – but he couldn’t.”
“He was too late.” Starsky laid the pictures on top of the envelope. “That’s what he told Ma – that he was too late.”
“Starsky, he tried.”
“Not hard enough.” He said stubbornly.
“What if – “ Hutch searched for something in their own lives to compare it with. “What if I’d been slower to get to you when Marcus’ followers had you? What if they’d killed you before I got there? Would you have blamed me?”
“No – of course not.” There was a look of surprise on Starsky’s face, as if he couldn’t believe Hutch would even ask. “Never – you did your best.”
“So did Joe. Your father was his friend – his best friend.”
The sapphire eyes softened, and Starsky looked down at the pictures once again. “Do you think they were friends like we are?”
“I don’t know. But I know that Joe honestly mourned your father.” Hutch saw again the anguish on Durniak’s face. “He blamed himself all these years for his death.”
“I can’t imagine how it would feel to get there too late.”
“Joe wanted me to tell you that your father wasn’t alone when he died.” He reached out to Starsky as he looked up again, squeezing his shoulder. “Joe was there with him. He promised to take care of your mother and the two of you.”
“I always thought Pop was alone.” The thought that his father had been with a friend as he died was comforting. “Somethin’ happens to me, I hope you’re there with me at the end.”
“If something happens to you – “ Hutch refused to think about it. “I hope I’m there quick enough to save you.”
“Guess you just better be on time from now on, huh?” He grinned.
“Me? Maybe if you got into less trouble.”
“Me? You’re the one who let the guy push his car off a cliff!”
“And you’re the one who had to run to the bathroom before Marcus’ trial!” Hutch reached out to slap Starsky on the shoulder.
“What about the time – ” He grinned as he caught Hutch's hand. "What about – there has to be another one – "
Squeezing Starsky's hand, he grinned back. "There was, and you were there."
"Yep." Holding up the envelope of pictures, he turned it over in his hands. "Someday, we'll be a picture in each other's pockets. But not for a long time."
"Not if we're lucky."
They'd said it a hundred times, maybe more, but Starsky didn't hesitate to say it once again. "Who do we trust?"
"Same as always." Hutch said softly.
*For timeline purposes, Survival happened before this episode rather than immediately after.