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Stephen R. Thorne is a member of the Resident Acting Company at Providence's Trinity Repertory Company, where his favorite productions include Hamlet, Henry V, and The Cider House Rules.
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The Green Eagle Score
A Parker Novel
By Richard Stark
The University of Chicago PressCopyright © 1967 Donald Westlake
All rights reserved.
Parker looked in at the beach and there was a guy in a black suit standing there, surrounded by all the bodies in bathing-suits. He was standing near Parker's gear, not facing anywhere in particular, and he looked like a rip in the picture. The hotel loomed up behind him, white and windowed, the Puerto Rican sun beat down, the sea foamed white on the beach, and he stood there like a homesick mortician.
Parker knew him. His name was Fusco.
Parker rolled over and called to Claire, a wave away, "I'm going in."
"Why?" But then she looked toward the beach, and didn't need an answer. She paddled over near Parker and said, "My God, he's inconspicuous. Who is he?"
"Business, maybe. You can stick around down here." He knew she wouldn't want to hear about business.
"I'll work on my tan," she said. "Will you come back?"
"Yes. Don't get too much sun."
He let the long waves glide him in toward the beach, and when he waded out onto the sand Fusco was gone. He walked up to his chaise longue, toweled himself dry, slipped into his sandals, draped the towel around his shoulders, and crossed the sand to the rear entrance of the hotel. He was a big man, blocky, with a big frame and an efficient graceless way of moving.
It took him a second to adjust to the darkness inside the door. He stood on the carpet until he could see, then walked down the long corridor to the hotel lobby. As he crossed the lobby Fusco got up from one of the black leather chairs and strolled obliquely across Parker's route and into the cocktail lounge. Parker went on to the elevator, rode up to seven and went down the hall to his room. The air conditioning was on and the room was as cold as a piece of tile. Parker called room service, ordered tonic and ice, and got dressed. Then he stood at the window, looking down at the tourists walking along Ashford Avenue, until the knock sounded at his door.
It was the tonic and ice. He signed for it, got a glass from the bathroom and the gin from the dresser, and made himself a drink.
The glass was half-empty before Fusco arrived. Parker opened to his knock and Fusco came in saying, "Christ, it gets hot down here."
"That's what it's for." Parker shut the door. "Make yourself a drink."
"What's that, gin? I can't touch it." Fusco shook his head and patted his stomach. "It's a funny thing," he said. "Since I got out I can't touch the hard stuff, it makes me double right up."
There was nothing to say to that. Parker went over to the chair by the window and sat down.
Fusco said, "Maybe some ice water. Okay?"
Fusco was medium height and very thin. His face was lined as though he worried a lot. Parker hadn't seen him in ten years, but he didn't seem to have aged at all. Having been inside had affected his stomach, and maybe was making him act so hesitant, but it hadn't been bad for his appearance.
Parker waited while Fusco built himself a glass of ice water, and then he said, "You could of tried looking like a tourist."
Fusco frowned like a man worried about constipation, his forehead laddering, and said, "Christ, Parker, not me. I put them Bermuda shorts on, hang a camera around my neck, I look like a pickpocket headed for Aqueduct. I got to stay who I am."
Parker shrugged. "Anyway, you're here."
"I got the address from Handy."
That was unnecessary to have said; Handy McKay was the only one Parker had given the address to. Parker had some of his drink and waited.
Fusco said. "I don't like letters through the mails, you know? And telephone calls when it's a complicated thing like this. So I figured I'd come down myself, personally, tell you about it."
Parker sat there and waited to be told.
Fusco looked worried again. "Handy said you were looking for work. I wouldn't of come down otherwise."
Fusco had to have some kind of reassurance, or he'd never get to the point. Parker said, "I'm available."
Fusco flashed a brief nervous smile of relief. "That's good," he said. "I'm glad." But then he didn't say anything more.
Parker prodded a little, saying, "You've got something on?"
"Right. You remember that wife I had? Ellen?"
Parker vaguely remembered hearing that Fusco had married, but it had been only five or six years ago, long since Parker's last meeting with him. But it was simpler to nod and say, "Yeah, I remember."
"I don't know if you ever met her—"
"Yeah, I didn't think so. Anyway, she divorced me when I got sent up. A little over three years ago. You know I got a daughter?"
Parker shook his head, not giving a damn. "I didn't know that," he said.
"Three years old," Fusco said. "Four in July."
Afraid Fusco was going to come out with baby pictures in a minute, Parker said, "What's this got to do with the job?"
"I'm getting to it," Fusco promised. "Ellen, now, after she divorced me she went back home to Monequois, that's a little town in upstate New York, near the border. You know, the Canada border."
Parker nodded, holding his impatience in check. The only thing to do with these run-off-at-the-mouth people was wait them out, they'd get it all said sooner or later. Try to rush them and they'd just get derailed and leave out half the things you should know.
"She lived with her folks for a while," Fusco said, "but I guess they gave her a bad time. About me, or something. So she went off on her own and got a job at a bar outside of town there. See, there's this Air Force base there, it's huge, and across the road from the gate there's all these bars, you know?"
Fusco said, "After a while she started shacking up with one of the guys from the base. Stan Devers, his name is. What the hell, I don't blame her. She's divorced in the first place, and I'm in stir, so why not?"
Where was all this leading? Parker couldn't see a job anywhere in the story yet, and it was spreading out wider and wider all the time, getting more and more soap opera. Parker said, "What's the point of all this?"
"I'll tell you in a minute," Fusco said. "You got to understand the background, is all."
Parker shrugged. "All right, Let's hear the background."
"The main thing," Fusco said, "is this guy Stan Devers. He's just a kid, you know, maybe twenty-three, twenty-four. Younger than Ellen, you know? But he's okay. When I first got out, and went up to see Ellen and the kid, and there's all these uniforms and things in the closet, I got mad, you know? Naturally. Also I was a little short, I didn't have nothing stashed away when I took the rap. So I tried to lean a little on this Devers kid, and he was a real surprise. He's a sharp kid, he knows his way around. He's never been in on anything like our stuff, you know, but he's cool."
"You couldn't badger-game him, you mean."
Fusco shrugged, not seeing any humor in it. "It was worth a try," he said, "but with Stan it wouldn't work out. But we got to know each other, you know? Sit around, have a Coke or whatever, throw a little bull. He's a good kid."
Parker said, "So now you're buddies. And he's got an idea for a heist."
"It was my idea," Fusco said. "He wasn't sure at first but I talked him into it and now he's a hundred per cent. And I know what you're thinking about amateurs, but not in this case. Stan's as good as half the pros in the business."
Parker said, "Half the pros in the business are in the big house."
"You'll have to see the kid for yourself," Fusco said. "If you don't think you can work with him, naturally you don't stick around. But like I told him, what we need is an organizer. Neither of us could set this thing up right, and I don't ever again go into a job that isn't set up right. That's what happened the last time, and it isn't going to happen again. I told Stan I'd try to get you, I told him you were the best blueprinter in the business. He's the one sprang me for me flying down here, a hundred twenty bucks. He's a good kid, and he's serious, and this thing can work."
Parker said, "Why do you need him?"
"He's the inside on the thing," Fusco explained earnestly. "He's a clerk in the base finance office, and—"
"Wait a second. The base finance office?"
Talking fast, Fusco said, "Parker, they got five thousand men on that base, they pay twice a month, they pay cash, the whole thing's—"
Parker broke in, saying, "Wait a while. This is the job you came down here to offer me? Go steal an army payroll right off the post?"
"It isn't Army, Parker, it's Air Force. And besides, they—"
"What do you mean it isn't Army? Have they got a fence around the post?"
"Base, they call it a base."
"Have they got a fence around it? And gates? And armed sentries on the gates?"
"Parker, it can be done. There's better than four hundred grand in there, Parker, twice a month, ours for the taking."
"Yours for the taking," Parker told him. "I don't take money away from five thousand armed men."
"It isn't five thousand armed men, Parker. Christ, you know what Stan calls the Air Force? The saluting civil service, he says. You know what they carry on their practice alerts? Empty carbines. They don't even get bullets, for Christ's sake."
"Somebody's got bullets," Parker told him. "Somewhere on that post, base, whatever they call it, somewhere there's somebody doesn't want us to take that four hundred grand. I'll leave that somebody alone."
"Parker, we got an inside man!"
"That's right. So if we do go in, and we do get back out again with the cash, who's the first guy the law talks to? Your pal."
"I told you," Fusco said urgently, "Stan's okay. He'd carry it off, Parker, I know he would."
"You don't know anything about him," Parker said, "until he's gone through it. That's what the word amateur is for. It means somebody you don't know about because he hasn't gone through it before and you can't tell what a guy's going to do until he's done it once."
Fusco spread his hands. "Parker, what can I say? I'm convinced."
Parker looked at him. Fusco was convinced, all right, but what did it mean? Was it the pro in him that was convinced, or was he locked into the kind of desperation that hits a lot of men, even the good solid pros, when they first make the street after a stretch on the inside? Lack of money has something to do with it, because most men fresh from stir have spent whatever they used to have on lawyers, but there's also the need they feel to get back on the horse, to prove to themselves they can still operate, the fall they took was nothing but a fluke, a one-in-a-million shot that can't possibly happen again. So they get impatient and they take the first thing that comes their way and they wind up back inside.
But Parker wasn't impatient. He had a stake, and reserves stashed here and there, and no need to prove anything to himself, and he could wait till the right thing came along. His reserve fund wasn't deep enough to satisfy him, particularly with Claire along now, and that's why he was looking for work, but the search had in it no overtones of urgency.
Claire was responsible for a lot of the absence of urgency. For the last few years before her, he'd been finding himself moving more and more in the direction of work-for-work's sake, work to relieve the boredom of being alive and not involved in a job, and that was a habit of mind just as dangerous as the ex-con's desperation. It was on a job that he'd taken in spite of knowing it was bad, a job set up like this one of Fusco's by a recent ex-con and an amateur inside man, that he'd met Claire. The job had gone sour in a lot of different ways, but at least out of it he'd gotten her, and calmness, and the ability to look at this thing Fusco was offering him, and decide whether or not it was something he wanted to get involved in.
Parker finished his drink, got to his feet, walked over to where the ice and gin were on the dresser, and made himself another. When he sat down again he said, "Tell me about your inside man."
"A kid," Fusco said. "Maybe twenty-four. College boy. Got kicked out of ROTC for some reason, that's why he's an enlisted man. Works in the finance office, clerk there."
"He's got keys?"
"Sure. He isn't supposed to, you know, but he got himself a set."
"Who knows he has them?"
"Me and Ellen. Now you."
Parker shook his head. "What about his buddies on the base?"
"He ain't that kind," said Fusco. "He's a loner, Parker. He's got a couple buddies he drinks with sometimes, but he wouldn't tell them nothing."
"You sure? Maybe he wants them in on it."
"Hell, no." Fusco was very emphatic. "Parker, I tell you the kid's sharp, he knows you get professionals to do a professional job. He already told me, the string we put together doesn't look good we can forget it, he's out."
Parker said, "What about when the law leans on him afterward? They will, you know."
"He'll keep his head."
"How do you know?"
Fusco made vague hand movements. "Because I know the kid. You'll know it yourself, when you see him."
"It doesn't necessarily kill the job if we have to do it the other way," Parker reminded him.
Fusco was too far inside his own ideas to get what Parker meant. He said, "What other way?"
"If we have to lose the kid when the job's over."
"You mean, bump him?" Fusco seemed really shocked. "Christ, Parker, I told you he's okay."
"I don't think so. He's only a kid."
"Kids can have records."
"You'll have to ask him, I don't know."
Parker shrugged, said, "All right, let it go. What about this ex-woman of yours?"
"Ellen? What about her?"
"She's in on it, isn't she?"
"Sure," said Fusco, throwing it away, as though he didn't know why Parker would bring it up at all. "She knows about it, if that's what you mean."
"Does she sit in, or just kibitz?"
"Oh, no," Fusco said, "Ellen wouldn't want to work. But it's okay her knowing. What the hell, she used to be with me, she knew all about everything I worked. She's reliable, guaranteed."
"What's the set-up between you and her?"
Fusco shook his head. "Nothing," he said. "Ellen don't want me back, so that's the way it is. She's seeing some headshrinker, she's got it all doped out, we shouldn't of got married in the first place, it's nobody's fault, nobody should get mad at nobody."
"And between you and Devers?"
"I got no jealousy, Parker. You know me better than that."
"That's you. How does he act, you, the ex-husband, hanging around?"
Fusco shrugged. "He's cool. What the hell, he knows the score, he knows I'm not trying to freeze him out."
"All right. Tell me about this base. You say it's Air Force."
"Yeah." Fusco leaned forward, elbows on knees, expression earnest and intent. "It's some kind of training base, it's all schools. They get a big turnover of people, most of them only stay two or three months."
"What kind of planes do they have there?"
Fusco seemed surprised at the question. "I don't know," he said. "You want to go in by plane?"
"How do I know? I'm not sure I want to go in at all. Do you know anything about this base or don't you?"
"Stan would be the one to tell you about that," Fusco said. "I don't know this military stuff, Parker."
"You never cased it?"
"Sure I did." Fusco's professional pride was hurt. "I been on the base a couple times, Stan fixed me up with a fake ID."
"How far's the finance office from the gate?"
"Well, there's three gates. It's a hell of a distance from the main gate, but there's this other one, the South Gate, it's only like two blocks from there. It's like a back entrance."
"How many guards on each gate?"
"Two. Just kids, you know?"
"And the payroll's four hundred grand?"
"Around that. Sometimes a little more, a little less."
"How's it come in?"
"They fly it in, the day before."
Parker said, "Give me the sequence."
Fusco said, "The plane comes in the day before, in the morning. The payroll's in two metal boxes. They put it on this truck, drive it to the finance office. Then they—"
"What kind of truck?"
"Regular armored car. A tough nut, Parker."
"All right. What next?"
"They split it up," Fusco said, "into the payrolls for all the outfits on the base. The money and a payroll sheet goes into a small metal box for each outfit, and it all goes into their vault overnight. Then in the morning they load it all into the armored car again and drive it around the base. There's one officer in each outfit takes care of the payroll. He signs for his box, takes it, gives out the cash."
Excerpted from The Green Eagle Score by Richard Stark. Copyright © 1967 Donald Westlake. Excerpted by permission of The University of Chicago Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Continues the Parker legacy, if you like Parker you will like this book. Reminded me of my early active duty days in how military life was. Surprise ending & challenges for Parker.