Authors: Robert B. Parker
When he was sleepless, which was less often
than it used to be
, Jesse Stone would get into the black Explorer he’d driven from L.A. and cruise around Paradise, Massachusetts, where he was chief of police. Nights like tonight, with the rain slanting down through the dark, and the streets shiny in the headlights, were the ones Jesse liked best. It would have been nice, Jesse thought, on a night like this, to have been a town marshal somewhere in the old west, where he could have relaxed into the saddle under his oilskin slicker with his hat yanked down over his eyes and let the horse find its own direction. He drove slowly past the town common with its white colonial meetinghouse on which the rain had fallen for two hundred years. The blue glare of the mercury street lamps diffused by the rain was restrained and opalescent. Except for the headlights of the Explorer, there were no other lights in this part of town. The neat houses with large lawns around the common were still and unlit. Nothing moved. The town library was blank. The high school stood inert, its red brick glistening with rain, its black windows implacable in the arc of headlights as Jesse turned into the parking lot.
He stopped the car for a moment and flicked on the high beams. The headlights rested on the baseball diamond: the rusting screen of the backstop, the slab of rubber on the pitcher’s mound, bowed slightly, the hollow in front of it where the high school kids lunged off the rubber, trying to pitch off leg drive like Nolan Ryan.
When he’d been in the minors, he could play the deepest short in the league because he had the big arm and could make the throw from the hole. Gave him range. Gave him more time. He could run.
He had good hands. He could hit enough for a middle infielder.
But it was the arm. Bigger arm than Rick Burleson, they used to tell him. Ticket to the show. Jesse rubbed his right shoulder as he looked at the baseball field. He remembered when he hurt it, at the start of a double play. It had been a clean take out. And it ended his career… Jesse let the car slide forward and turned and went down Main Street toward the water. He pulled off the street into the empty parking lot at Paradise Beach. He let the motor idle. The rain intensified the sea smell. In the headlights the surf came in and curled and crested and broke, the black ocean making the hard rain seem trivial. A thermos of pina coladas would be nice to drink sitting here, and maybe some music. He thought about Jenn. She had an infinite capacity for romance. If she were here, she would lean back with her eyes closed and talk with him and listen to him and let herself feel the romance of the late night and the rain and the sound of the ocean. And let him share it with her. Sometimes he thought he missed that more than anything else in the marriage. Ten years in L.A. Homicide hadn’t extinguished his sense of romantic possibility. It had demonstrated beyond argument that romance was not at all likely. But in showing its evanescence, experience had made Jesse more certain that the possibility of romance was the final stay against confusion. Maybe for Jenn too. Long after the divorce, they were still connected. When she heard last year that he was in trouble, she’d come east. It wasn’t the kind of trouble she could help with. She would have known that. She had come, simply, he supposed, when he allowed himself to think about it, to be there. And she was still here, living here. And what the hell were they going to do now? He put the car in drive and turned slowly out of the parking lot and drove along the beachfront toward downtown. Neither booze nor his ex-wife were good for him, and he shouldn’t spend too much time thinking of them.
The marquee of the movie theater was unlit. The stores were dark. The street lights cycled through the red, yellow, green changes unobserved. He went up Indian Hill and into Hawthorne Park. He parked very near the edge of the high ground and shut off the headlights and let the car idle again while he looked out over the harbor. To his left the harbor emptied into the open ocean. To his right the harbor dead-ended at the causeway that ran from Paradise to Paradise Neck. The neck was straight across the harbor, a low dark form with a lighthouse on the north point. Just inside the lighthouse point, a hundred yards off shore, crossing the T of the point at a slant, was Stiles Island. The near end of it shielded the harbor mouth, the far end jutted beyond the point into the open sea. In the channel, between the island and the neck, where the land pressed the water on either side, Jesse knew that the ocean currents seethed dangerously, and the water was never still. But from here, there was no hint of it. The calm sweep of the lighthouse just touched the expensive rooftops of the carefully spaced houses, and ran the full length of the barrel-arched bridge that connected it to the neck. The rest was darkness.
Jesse sat for a long time in the darkness looking at the ocean and the rain. The digital clock on the dash read 4:23. In clear weather the eastern sky would be pale by now and in another half hour or so, this time of year, it would be light. Jesse turned on the headlights and backed the car up and headed back down the hill to shower and change and put on his badge.
By the time Macklin was out of jail for a week
, he had acquired a brown Mercedes sedan, which he stole from the Alewife Station parking garage, and a 9-mm semiautomatic pistol that he got from a guy he’d done time with named Desmond.
Macklin used the nine to knock over a liquor store near Wellington Circle. With the money from the liquor store, he paid Desmond’s cousin Chick, who worked at the Registry of Motor Vehicles, to fix up a registration in the name of Harry Smith and scam a legitimate license plate. He had the car painted British racing green. Then he bought a fifth of Belvedere vodka and a bottle of Stock vermouth and drove over to see Faye.
As soon as he walked in the apartment, she slipped out of the bathrobe she was wearing and in five minutes they were making love. When it was over, Faye got up and made them each a martini and brought the drinks back to bed.
“Saved that up for a year and a half,” Macklin said.
“I could tell,” Faye said.
They were propped among the pink and lavender pillows on Faye’s king-sized bed with the martinis next to Macklin’s pistol on the bedside table. The bedroom walls were lavender, and the ceiling was mirrored. The condominium was in the old Charlestown Navy Yard, and through the second floor windows they could see the Boston skyline across the harbor.
“You too?” Macklin said.
“Me too what?” Faye said.
She had a rose tattooed at the top of her right thigh.
“You been saving it for a year and a half?”
“Of course,” she said.
Macklin drank some of his martini. The sheets on Faye’s bed were lavender.
“Nobody,” Faye said.
Staring up at the mirrored ceiling, she liked the way they looked. He was slim and smooth. He was so blond that his hair was nearly white. He looked a little pale now, but she knew he’d get his tan back. She loved the contrast of his white-blond hair and his tan skin. She examined herself carefully. Boobs still good. Legs still good. They ought to be. Forty-five minutes every day on the goddamned Stair Master She rolled onto her side, and looked at her butt. Tight. Stair Master does it again.
“Checking out the equipment?” Macklin said.
“Seems to be working okay,” Macklin said.
“How about yours?” she said.
They finished their martinis in silence.
“What are we going to do?” Faye said.
“The same thing mostly,” Macklin said, “but I was thinking maybe we could try it in the chair.”
Faye giggled again.
“I don’t mean that,” she said.
“I mean what are we going to do, you know, like with our life?”
Macklin smiled. He sat up higher in the bed and poured another martini for himself and one for Faye.
“Well, tomorrow,” Macklin said, “we’re going up to Paradise and look at real estate on Stiles Island.”
“What’s Stiles Island?”
“Island in Paradise Harbor. It’s connected to the rest of the town by a little bridge. Bridge is gated and there’s a guard shack and a private security patrol. Everybody lives there is rich. They got a branch bank out there just for them.”
“How do you know about this place?”
“Guy I was in jail with, Lester Lang, kept talking about it, called it the mother lode.”
“You ever seen it?”
“We going to buy property out there?” Faye said.
“So why we going up there to look at real estate?”
“We’re scoping the place.”
“For the mother of all stickups,” Macklin said.
Faye put her head against his shoulder and laughed.
“I’ll drink to that,” she said, touching the rim of her glass to the rim of his.
Suitcase Simpson came through the open door
into Jesse’s office without knocking.
He said, “Jesse was that your ex-wife I seen on TV last night?”
“I don’t know, Suit,” Jesse said.
“What did you see?”
“Channel Three News,” Simpson said.
“They got a new weather girl, Jenn Stone.”
She’d used her married name.
“Weather girl?” Jesse said.
“Yeah, they said she was from Los Angeles and were joking around with her about how it would be pretty different trying to report New England weather.”
“And it looked like Jenn?”
“Yeah, I only seen her that one time, but you know she’s not somebody you forget.”
“No,” Jesse said, “she’s not.”
“Was she a weather girl in L.A.?” Simpson said.
“No, she was an actress.”
“Well, maybe she’s acting like a weather girl.”
“Maybe,” Jesse said.
“Was she on at six or eleven?”
“I saw her at six,” Simpson said.
“I’ll take a look tonight,” Jesse said.
“I guess she’s not going back to L.A.,” Simpson said.
“Looks that way for now,” Jesse said.
Simpson stood for a moment, as if he wanted to say other things but didn’t know how to. Finally he said, “Well, I figured you’d want to know.”
“I would, thanks, Suit.”
Simpson hesitated another moment and then nodded as if answering yes to a question no one had asked, turned, and went out of the office.
She’s using her married name.
Jesse swiveled his chair around and put his feet up on the windowsill and looked out. It has to be Jenn, he thought. It’s too big a coincidence. Three thousand miles away from her, he’d gotten his feelings under control. He hadn’t stopped loving her, but the fact that he did love her didn’t mean he had to be with her, and it didn’t mean he couldn’t love anybody else. Or at least it hadn’t meant that, or he’d thought it hadn’t meant that, while she was three thousand miles away in bed with a movie producer. But here… Molly Crane came in from the desk.
“Jesse,” she said, “the fire this morning down at Fifty-nine Geary Street? Anthony says it looks like it was set, thinks you should have a look.”
Jesse swiveled slowly back around.
“Geary Street,” he said.
“They got the fire pretty well knocked down,” Molly said.
“But Anthony’s there and the fire captain.”
“They’re waiting on you, Jesse.”
Jesse smiled. Molly was like a third-grade teacher.
“On my way,” he said.
He didn’t use the siren. One of his hard rules for the department was no sirens, no flashing lights, unless it was a time-sensitive , emergency.
That end of Geary Street converged with Preston Road to form a triangle two blocks from the beach. Fifty-nine Geary was at the I apex of the triangle. It was separated from the next house by a vacant lot. Both Geary and Preston were blocked off when Jesse arrived. Pat Sears was rerouting traffic away from the area. Jesse stopped beside him.