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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.
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."
"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."
"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.
--from Back Story: A Spencer Novel by Robert B. Parker, Copyright © 2003 by Robert B. Parker, Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons, a member of the Penguin Group (USA), Inc., All Rights Reserved, Reprinted with Permission from the Publisher.