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Robert B. Parker

It was nearly midnight
and I was just
from work.
I work as a detective.

I took a bottle of beer from the fridge, opened it and sat down to read my post. There was a letter from Susan. The letter said: 'I have no time. Hawk is in prison in Mill River, California. You must get him out. I need help too. Hawk will explain. Things are terrible, but I love you. Susan'

I read the letter again. The words were still the same; the meaning was still the same. The letter came from San Jose.

I drank some beer. Then I went to the phone. My lawyer Vince Haller answered after thirty seconds.
'It's Spenser,' I said.
He said, 'It's the middle of the night. I was asleep.'
I said, 'Hawk's in prison in a small town called Mill River, south of San Francisco. I want you to get a lawyer in there now.'
'In the middle of the night?'
'It's not the middle of the night there in California. It's only the middle of the night here in Boston,' I replied.
'What kind of trouble is Hawk in?' Vince asked.
'I don't know. Hawk knows. Get a lawyer down there now.'
'OK, I know someone out there. She'll go and see. Wait for her to call you.'
'OK. But hurry, please, Vince.'
I got another beer and read Susan's letter again. It said the same thing.

The phone went at three in the morning. A woman's voice said, 'Mr Spenser?'
I said yes.
She said, 'This is Paula Goldman. I'm a lawyer from San Francisco.'
'Have you seen Hawk?' I asked.
'Yes. He's in a cell in Mill River, California. The police arrested him for murder. He killed a man called Emmett Colder, who worked for a man called Russell Costigan. Hawk also hurt several policemen. It seems to be difficult to arrest him.'
'Yes,' I said.
'He agrees that he killed Colder, but he says that he was only defending himself.'
'Can you get him out?'
'Perhaps, but the problem is that Russell Costigan's father is Jerry Costigan.'
'You know Jerry Costigan.'
'I know who he is. He owns half this country.'
'Right, and one of the things which he owns is Mill River, California,' she said. 'So there's no hope for Hawk. It doesn't matter what he did or didn't do. What matters is that he broke three of Russell Costigan’s teeth. And he's black. The Costigans don't like black people.'
I was quiet for a short time, then I asked: 'Did he say anything about Susan Silverman?'
'He came to California because she asked him to, but they were waiting for him. That's all he said. The police were listening to our conversation, and I guess he didn't want to say more in front of them. The police in Mill River are friendly with Jerry Costigan, if you know what I mean.'
'So that's all you know?'
'That's all I know.'
'Tell me about the Mill River police station.'
She said, 'I'm a lawyer. I can't help a prisoner escape. It's against the law.' But she described the small town prison perfectly. There were only four cells in the Mill River police station.

Before I left Boston, a friend made a cast for my leg. It was too big so I could put it on and take it off easily. When I was wearing it, I seemed to have a broken leg. I put dirt on the cast so that it looked old and used.

It lay at the bottom of my bag while I flew to San Francisco and then drove through San Jose to Mill River. I found the police station. Opposite the police station there was a library.

I parked in the car park behind the library and got the cast out of my bag. Inside the cast, there was a place where I could hide a small gun. I hid my gun there, took off my shoe and put the cast on. I got out of the car and hid the keys in the car park.

I bought a bottle of cheap wine from a supermarket and put some on my clothes. I smelled bad and had a two-day beard. I sat outside the library with the bottle in my hand and said rude things to the people walking past. Before long two policemen arrested me and took me to the police station.

They took me past the cell where Hawk was. He was lying on the bed, his hands behind his head.
'Hey, black boy!' I shouted.
Hawk opened his eyes and looked at me. His eyes showed nothing. 'Yeah whitey? You talkin' to me?'
'Stop that!' said one of the policemen. They locked me in my cell. There was nothing for me to do for hours, so I slept.
'What's happening in here?' asked the young policeman.
It was two in the morning, and Hawk and I were making a lot of noise.
'I'm singing the black man to sleep,' I said. I hit my shoe against the wall of the cell in time with the song which I was singing.
'Hey, Maury, get in here,' called the young policeman.

A second policeman arrived. I continued singing. Hawk was silent. The young one pulled a switch and my cell door opened. Both the policemen came in.
'We're going to teach you to be quiet,' the older one said.
I pulled the gun out from under my shirt and pointed it at them. 'If you make any noise,' I said, 'I'll kill you.'
Both of them stopped and stayed where they were. I took their guns from them. 'Are you the only ones in the building?' I asked.
'No, there's Madilyn on the phones,' Maury answered.
I left the cell and went over to the switches on the wall. I locked the cell which the policemen were in, and opened the one which Hawk was in. He came out and walked over to me. I gave him one of the guns.
‘“Black boy”, huh?' he said.
'Get Madilyn,' I said.

We locked Madilyn in Hawk's cell, and left the police station. I got the car keys and we drove towards San Jose. 'They'll come after us soon,' Hawk said.
'As soon as one of the police cars returns to the station.'
'We have to go to Susan's place,' I said.
'They'll look there first,' Hawk said.
'I know,' I said.
But there was nobody there. I looked in the bathroom and bedroom cupboards, and said to Hawk, 'She's left town.'

We climbed out of a back window at the same time that the police were arriving at the front of the building. We drove north to San Francisco.

Source: New English Digest (retold by Robin Waterfield for Penguin Readers)


nearly: almost (casi)
getting home: arriving home (llegando a casa)
get him out: set him free (liberarlo)
what kind of trouble is he in?: what sort of problem is he in? (¿en qué tipo de problema se metió él?)
get a lawyer down there now: envía un abogado allí (abajo) ahora. Los americanos utilizan muy corrientemente "enfatizadores" geográficos; en este caso, California que está al sur de Boston.
the phone went: the telephone rang (el teléfono sonó)
cell: a room where a prisoner is kept (celda)
murder: homicide (asesinato, homicidio)
he owns half: he has got 50% (es dueño de la mitad)
it doesn't matter: never mind (no importa, no tiene importancia)

if you know what I mean = if you understand me (tú me entiendes)
plaster covering used for broken bones (yeso)
put it on =/= take it off (ponerlo =/= quitarlo)
dirt: covered with unclean things (suciedad)
to hide/hid/hidden: to prevent from being seen or discovered (ocultar, esconder)

a two-day beard: two days without shaving (una barba de dos días)
whitey: honky (offensive names for White people) (paliducho)
pulled a switch
switched a button on (apretó un botón, presionó una tecla)
they'll come after us: follow us (nos perseguirán)
to climb out of: to jump through (saltar a través de)



1   is black.

2.     owns Mill River, California.

3.     pretended to have a broken leg.

4.     was locked in a cell with a colleague.

5.     found a lawyer in San Francisco.

6.     described the number of cells in the police station.

7.     worked on the phones in the police station.

8.     asked Hawk to go to California.