“Light, Starsk.... Wait! Damn! It's gone now. Did you see it? Or am I hallucinating?”
“Yeah, I did. It was real…. I think. After all this time, though, I guess I’m not sure.”
In silence and total darkness, the partners waited.
“And sounds,” Hutch whispered, at last. “Scratching?”
Finally, a muffled female voice: “They’re here somewhere! And they’re alive! She never digs this fast unless the victims are alive!”
Hutch breathed an audible sigh.
Starsky chuckled. “Guess Saul won’t have to execute our wills after all, buddy.”
“Don’t tell me you’d given up?”
“Never!” Hutch could hear Starsky trying to shift his position a little but the weight of the building that had collapsed on top of them still wouldn’t allow any movement. “I was just thinkin’ this leak I gotta take might be fatal.”
Hutch wanted to laugh but he was afraid all the dust and dirt he’d breathed wouldn’t like it.
The definite sounds of an animal scrabbling frantically in the debris, whining and huffing, now came to Hutch’s ears. Along with many raised, commanding voices farther away. The light suddenly came back and a beam flashed across where he and Starsky were trapped, almost immediately diverted from Hutch’s quickly closed eyes. Moments later, as he lifted his crusted eyelids again, he made out a figure crawling toward them over the mounds of fallen upper floors. The redirected illumination gave Hutch his first view of what was left of the devastated structure, and he knew he and his partner were extremely lucky to be breathing.
“Hey, there, fellas!” The woman dribbled a little water from her canteen into Starsky’s mouth. “Help’s right behind me. We were told two police officers were in this vicinity but figured one of the other teams had already found you. Ken and Dave, right?” she asked, looking at Starsky.
“I’m Ken,” Hutch corrected, gently, smiling inwardly at the common mistake. Grimacing apologetically, she relieved his terrible thirst with a few mouthfuls. “He’s Dave," Hutch added.
Starsky coughed around the rasp in his throat, swallowed the next offering of water, and tried his best Bogart. “What’s your name, schweetheart?”
“Mary Jane. Search and Rescue. We’ve been all through what’s left of this block of buildings - thought we’d found everyone.” The dog continued to loosen and move debris while Mary Jane patted her head. “This one wouldn’t let us leave. She knew she still had people to find.”
Hutch looked at the dust-covered animal that was pawing at the stuff covering them. “So, this is the smart little pup we owe for saving us?” As his fingers were freed from their prison, he gently scratched under the chin. “What’s her name?”
Mary Jane caressed the dog’s head. “Magic.”