Face-Off by Matt Racicot
There were two books Parker could ever remember having paid any attention to: the Gideon Bible (stowed, as it was, in seemingly every motel nightstand across the lower 48); and the various city phone books that either had their pages leafed through, stripped, or were wielded two-handed by tough-guy cops doing their best Mickey Mantle impression against the side of Parker’s head.
So it was unusual for Parker to find himself standing in front of a table of books in an East 57th Street bookstore, holding a hand written list with twelve titles scribbled by his own hand, all by the same author: Richard Stark.
“Can I help you with something?”
Parker let the question roll around before answering.
“I’m looking for the writer of this book.”
“Richard Stark.” the clerk said. “That’s a pseudonym for Donald Westlake.”
“An alias, eh?”
“Yeah.” The clerk shrugged. “Like I said, a pseudonym.”
Stark had been following Parker’s career for years and Parker knew it, but until recently, Parker didn’t care. That was until two weeks ago when Parker was in Reno pulling up stakes and had come across a dog-eared copy of The Hunter. And it was all in there: Lynn, Mal, the Outfit… on the inside cover of the book it read University of Chicago Press, and that’s where Parker would start. Because for the first time in both of their careers, Parker had questions for Stark.
It was a Wednesday and most of Chicago was tuning in to watch their boys take on the Flyers in game 6 of the Stanley Cup final as Parker listened to the radio announce the start of the third period.
He opened his car door, walked across the street, jimmied the air conditioner out of the bookstore’s window, and pulled himself in.
His bag, left by the clerk the day before at the side of the register, contained his 12 books. Parker exited the store and returned to his car. Maybe he’d call a girl he knew, watch the rest of the game, celebrate a bit of his own before calling on Mr. Westlake.
© Matt Racicot 2010
Posted in Uncommon