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Authors: Robert B. Parker

Back Story

BOOK: Back Story
Robert B Parker
Back Story
It was a late May morning in Boston. I had coffee. I was sitting in my swivel chair, with my feet up, looking out my window at the Back Bay. The lights were on in my office. Outside, the temperature was 53. The sky was low and gray. There was no rain yet, but the air was swollen with it, and I knew it would come. Across Boylston, on the other side of Berkeley Street, I saw Paul Giacomin walking with a dark-haired woman. They stopped at the light and, when it changed, came on across toward my office. They both moved well, like people who'd been trained. I'd have to see her close-up to confirm, but from here I thought the woman looked good. I was pleased to see that Paul was carrying a paper bag. I swiveled my chair back around and, by the time they got up to my office, I was standing in the doorway. Paul smiled and handed me the bag.

"Krispy Kremes?" I said.

"Like always," he said.

I put the bag on my desk and turned back and hugged Paul.

"This is Daryl Silver," Paul said.

"My real name is Gordon," she said. "Silver is my professional name."

We shook hands. Daryl was, in fact, a knockout. Eagle-eye Spenser. I opened the paper bag and took out a cardboard box of donuts.

"They haven't got these yet in Boston," Paul told Daryl. "So whenever I come home, I bring some."

"Will you join me?" I said to Daryl.

"Thanks," she said. "I'd love to."

"That's a major compliment," Paul said to her. "Usually he goes off in a corner and eats them all."

I poured us some coffee. Paul was looking at the picture on top of the file cabinet of Susan, Pearl, and me.

"I'm sorry about Pearl," Paul said.

"Thank you."

"You okay?"

I shrugged and nodded.


I shrugged and held out the box of donuts.

"Krispy Kreme?" I said.

The rain arrived and released some of the tension in the atmosphere. It rained first in small, incoherent splatters on the window, then more steadily, then hard. It was very dark out, and the lights in my office seemed warm.

"How did it go in Chicago?" I said.

"The play got good notices," Paul said.

"You read them?"

"No. But people tell me."

"You like directing?"

"I think so. But it's my own play. I don't know if I'd want to direct something written by somebody else."

"How's rehearsal going here?"

"We've done the play too often," Paul said. "We're having trouble with our energy."

"And you're in this?" I said to Daryl.


"She's gotten really great reviews," Paul said. "In Chicago, and before that in Louisville."

"I have good lines to speak," she said.

"Well, yeah," Paul said. "There's that."

With the rain falling, the air had loosened. Below my window, most of the cars had their lights on, and the wet pavement shimmered pleasantly. The lights at Boylston Street, diffused by the rain, looked like bright flowers.

"Daryl would like to talk to you about something," Paul said.

"Sure," I said.

Paul looked at her and nodded. She took in a deep breath.

"Twenty-eight years ago my mother was murdered," she said.

After twenty-eight years, "I'm sorry" seemed aimless.

"1974," I said.

"Yes. In September. She was shot down in a bank in Boston, by people robbing it."

I nodded.

"For no good reason."

I nodded again. There was rarely a good reason.

"I want them found."

"I don't blame you," I said. "But why now, after twenty-eight years?"

"I didn't know how to do it or who to ask. Then I met Paul and he told me about you. He said you saved his life."

"He might exaggerate a little," I said.

"He said if they could be found, you could find them."

"He might exaggerate a little."

"We lived in La Jolla," Daryl said. "We were visiting my mother's sister in Boston. My mother just went into the bank to cash some traveler's checks. And they shot her."

"Were you with her?" I said.

"No. The police told me. I was with my aunt."

"How old were you when your mother died?"


"And you still can't let it go," I said.

"I'll never let it go."

I drank some coffee. There were two Krispy Kremes left in the box. I had already eaten one more than either of my guests.

"Either of you want another donut?" I said.

They didn't. I felt the warm pleasure of relief spread through me. I didn't take a donut. I just sipped a little coffee. I didn't want to seem too eager.

"I remember it," I said. "Old Shawmut Bank branch in Audubon Circle. It's a restaurant now."


"Some sort of revolutionary group."

"The Dread Scott Brigade."

"Ah, yes," I said.

"You know of them?"

"Those were heady times," I said, "for groups with funny names."

I reached over casually, as if I weren't even thinking about it, and took one of the donuts.

"I can't pay you very much," she said.

"She can't pay you anything," Paul said.

"Solve a thirty-year-old murder for no money," I said. "How enticing."

Daryl looked down at her hands, folded in her lap.

"I know," she said.

"Awhile ago, I did a thing for Rita Fiore," I said to Paul, "and last week her firm finally got around to paying me."

"A lot?"

"Yes," I said. "A lot."

Paul grinned. "Timing is everything," he said.

"Does that mean you'll help me?" Daryl said.

"It does," I said.

I met Martin Quirk for a drink in a bar in South Boston called Arno's, where a lot of cops had started to hang out since Police Headquarters had been conveniently relocated to South Cove. I got there first and was drinking a draft Budweiser when Quirk arrived. He was a big guy, about my size, and you could tell he was strong. But mostly what you noticed was how implacable he seemed. Several cops greeted him carefully. When he sat beside me, the bartender came quickly down the bar.

"What'll it be, Captain?"

"Ketel One on the rocks, with a twist," Quirk said.

"You got it, Captain."

"Sorry about your dog," Quirk said to me.

"Thank you."

"You and Susan going to get another one?"


"You want to stop talking about this?"

"I do."

"Okay, whaddya need?"

Quirk's drink came promptly. He took a sip, swallowed, and smiled to himself.

"I found myself missing you, Captain."

"Sure," Quirk said. "Happens all the time."

He took another sip of his vodka. Quirk had hands like a stone mason, but all his movements were quite delicate.

"In 1974," I said. "A woman named Emily Gordon was shot by a group called the Dread Scott Brigade who were holding up a bank in Audubon Circle."

"Nobody ever saw who shot her. Everyone was lying facedown on the floor."

"You remember every case?" I said.

"I remember that. It was before I started working Homicide full-time. I was working detectives out of old Station Sixteen, you remember, before we reorganized?"

I nodded.

"I was one of the guys who responded when the call came in."

"Were you on it all the way?"

"No. Homicide Division took it over. But I always kind of followed the thing."

The television was on behind the bar, and the early newscasters were in a frenzy over the possibility of showers on the weekend.

"Homicide get anywhere?" I said.

"Couldn't find them," Quirk said. "Had pictures from the bank security cameras. Had eyewitnesses. Had a letter from the Dread Scott Brigade saying they did it. Dread, by the way is spelled e-a-d."

"Why, those clever punsters," I said. "Did it mention Emily Gordon?"

"I think it said something about how no member of the oppressor class is safe."

"How 1974 is that?" I said.

"They spelled oppression wrong," Quirk said.

"So Homicide think they've got a no-brainer," I said.

"Bunch of fucking amateurs," Quirk said. "Up against a crew of street-smart big-city homicide dicks." He drank another sip of his vodka.

"And?" I said.

"Amateurs one," Quirk said. "Dicks nothing."

"So far," I said.

"So far," Quirk said. "Being amateurs actually helped them."

"No MO," I said. "No arrest record. No mug shots to compare with the bank photos."

"Nobody recognized them," Quirk said. "The FBI never heard of them."

"They claim credit for any other jobs?" I said.

"Not that I know."

"Money ever show up?"

"Nope. But you know how that works. How many people get cash and check the serial numbers."

"Banks do," I said.

"Banks say they do," Quirk said.

My beer was gone. I gestured to the bartender for another one. The bartender picked up my glass and looked at Quirk. Quirk shook his head and the bartender went to draw me another Bud. I still preferred Blue Moon Belgian White Ale. But that was not one of the options at Arno's. In fact, Budweiser was the option.

"Murder weapon?" I said.

"Yep, and the car they used."

"Prints on the gun?"

"Gun was clean," Quirk said.

"Car?" I said.

"Most of the prints in the car belonged to the guy they stole it from."

"Trace the gun?"

"Yep. Ml carbine. Fully automatic. Stolen from a National Guard Armory in Akron, Ohio, in 1963."

"So who was in the bank?" I said.

"A black guy. A white woman. There was probably someone driving the car, but no one saw who it was."

"And that's it?" I said. "That's all there is?"

"That's absolutely fucking it," Quirk said.

"Anyone remember who had the carbine?"

"Far as I can tell, all of them had long guns. Nobody in there knew one from another," Quirk said. "Homicide never got a sniff."

"And they were on it when it was hot."


"I'm starting out after it's been cold for twenty-eight years."

"You working for someone?"

"Emily Gordon's daughter is a friend of Paul Giacomin's," I said.

"Oh," Quirk said.

"Oh," I said.

"How is the kid?"

"Paul? He's not a kid anymore."

"I know how that works," Quirk said. "Two of my kids are older than I am."

"Anything else you can tell me, gimme someplace to start?"

"I told you what I remember," Quirk said. "You want to come in, you can look at the case files."

"I will," I said.

"She paying you top dollar for this?" Quirk said.

"She and Paul gave me six donuts this morning."

Quirk nodded thoughtfully.

"Yeah," he said. "That would buy you."

I sat at an empty desk in the Homicide Division outside Quirk's office. There were a lot of other desks in neat rows under bright lights. The floor was clean. The file cabinets were new. All the desks had computers on them. The old Berkeley Street headquarters was cramped and unattractive and looked like what it was. This place looked like a room for stockbrokers with bright suspenders and cuff links. Cops weren't supposed to be working under these conditions. I felt like I was in L.A. The file on Emily Gordon's murder was in a big brown cardboard envelope closed with a thick rubber band. It had never been computerized. I was grateful at least for that.

A detective named DeLong walked past and stopped and came back. He had on a green Lacoste polo shirt hanging over blue jeans. I could see the outline of his gun, in front, under the shirttail.

"Spenser," he said. "You re-upping?"

"Just stopped by to give you guys a hand," I said.

"Don't steal anything," DeLong said.

I looked around the Homicide Division. "Place is an embarrassment, DeLong."

"Yeah. I know. I'm turning into a sissy."

"You remember a bank robbery in Audubon Circle, in 1974? Woman got killed."

"1974? For crissake, Spenser, I was fifteen in 1974."

"Yeah," I said. "Me too."

DeLong looked like he was going to say something, then shook his head and walked off. I went back to my case file. Aside from the autopsy report and the crime scene write-up, the case file was mostly reports written by Mario Bennati, detective first grade. I didn't know him. Quirk said he had been the lead detective on the case and that he'd retired in 1982. I plowed along. Cops aren't usually graceful writers, and the jargon of investigative procedure didn't help. For a case that had no clues, no identifiable suspects, and no resolution, there was a lot of stuff, none of it helpful. Bennati had tried. His case log showed he had talked to all the customers in the bank, everyone he could find who'd been in the vicinity of the bank, and all bank employees. He'd talked to Emily Gordon's sister, Sybil Gold, to six-year-old Daryl Gordon, and to Emily Gordon's husband, Barry, from whom she had apparently been estranged at the time of the shooting. There had been talk with the FBI. The FBI would send over an intelligence report on the Dread Scott Brigade. There had been talk with the cops in San Diego. Talk with the DEA. Talk with the Army about the stolen carbine. Talk with the bank examiners. All the statements were included. I ploughed on. It was late afternoon. I needed a nap.

I drank a lot of bad coffee. The night watch came on. I was hungry. When I finally finished, it was dark outside. I closed the envelope and put it on the empty desk and leaned my head back against the chair and closed my eyes and took in some long, quiet breaths.

Where was the FBI intelligence report?

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