Cold Service

Robert B Parker

Cold Service

FOR JOAN far together

REVENGE IS A DISH BEST SERVED COLD.

1

It started without me. "Bookie named Luther Gillespie hired me," Hawk said. "Ukrainian mob was trying to take over his book."

"Ukrainian mob?" I said.

"Things tough in the old country," Hawk said. "They come here yearning to breathe free."

"Luther declined?"

"He did. They gave him twenty-four hours to reconsider. So he hired me to keep him alive."

A dignified gray-haired nurse in a sort of dressy flowered smock over her nurse suit came into the hospital room and checked one of the monitors tethered to Hawk. Then she nodded, tapped an IV line, and nodded again and smiled at Hawk.

"Is there anything you need?" she said.

"Almost everything," Hawk said. "But not right now."

The nurse nodded and went out. Through the window I could see the sun in the west reflecting off the mirrored surface of the Hancock Tower.

"I'm guessing that didn't go so well," I said.

"We're on the way to his house, on Seaver Street, somebody from a window across the street shoots me three times in the back with a big rifle. Good shooter, grouped all three shots between my shoulder blades. Missed the spine, missed the heart, plowed up pretty much of the rest."

"The heart I'm not surprised," I said, "being as how it's so teeny."

"Don't go all mushy on me," Hawk said. "I wake up, here I am in a big private room and you be sitting in the chair reading a book by Thomas Friedman."

"Longitudes and Attitudes,"I said.

"Swell," Hawk said. "How come I got this room?"

"I know a guy," I said.

"When I go down, they go on after Luther and kill him and his wife and two of his three kids. The youngest one was in day care."

"Object lesson," I said. "For the next guy, they push."

Hawk nodded again.

"Where's the youngest kid?"

"With his grandmother," Hawk said. "They tell me I ain't going to die."

"That's what I heard," I said.

There were hard things being discussed, and not all of them aloud.

"I want to know who they are and where they are," Hawk said.

I nodded.

"And I want to know they did it," Hawk said. "Not think it, know it."

"When are you getting out?" I said.

"Maybe next week."

"Too soon," I said. "You won't be ready even if we know who and where."

"Sooner or later," Hawk said, "I'll be ready."

"Yeah," I said. "You will."

"And I'll know it when I am."

"And when you are," I said, "we'll go."

We were on the twenty-second floor in Phillips House at Mass General. All you could see from where we were was the Hancock Tower gleaming in the setting sun. Hawk looked at it for a while. There was no expression on his face. Nothing in his eyes.

"Yeah," he said. His voice was uninflected. "We will."

2

I STOPPED BY pretty much every day to visit Hawk. One day when I arrived, I saw Junior and Ty Bop lingering in the hallway outside his room. Both were black. Junior took up most of the corridor. Fortunately, Ty Bop weighed maybe one hundred thirty pounds, so there was room to get by. I smiled at them cordially. Junior nodded. Ty Bop paid me no attention. He had eyes like a coral snake. Neither meanness nor interest nor affection nor recognition showed in them. Nor humanity. Even standing still, he seemed jittery and bouncy. Nobody on the floor or at the nursing station ventured near either of them. "Tony inside?" I said to Junior.

He nodded and I went in. Tony Marcus was standing by the bed, talking to Hawk. Tony's suit must have cost more than my car. And he was