Page 89 of Mystic River


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MARSHALL BURDEN CAME into the Homicide Unit during lunch hour and called to Whitey as he pushed through the small gate attached to the reception desk. "You the guys looking for me?"

Whitey said, "That's us. Come on over."

Marshall Burden was a year short of his thirty and he looked it. He had the milky-wet eyes of a man who'd seen more of the world and more of himself than anyone wanted to, and he carried his tall, flabby frame like he'd rather move backward than forward, as if the limbs were at war with the brain and the brain just wanted out of the whole deal. He'd run the property room for the last seven years, but before that he'd been one of the aces of the whole State Police Department, groomed for a colonel's slot, working his way up from Narcotics to Homicide to Major Crimes without a bump in the road until one day, the story went, he just woke up scared. It was a disease that usually afflicted the guys who worked undercover and sometimes the highway troopers who suddenly couldn't pull over one more car, so sure were they that the driver had a gun in his hand and nothing left to lose. But Marshall Burden caught it somehow, too, started becoming the last guy through the door and dragging his ass to calls, freezing in stairwells as everyone else kept climbing.

He took a seat beside Sean's desk, giving off an air of spoiled fruit, and thumbed through the Sporting News page-a-day calendar Sean kept there, the pages going back to March.

"Devine, right?" he said without looking up.

"Yeah," Sean said. "Good to meet you. We studied some of your work in the Academy, man."

Marshall shrugged as if the memory of his old self embarrassed him. He thumbed through a few more pages. "So what's up, guys? I gotta get back in half an hour."

Whitey wheeled his chair over by Marshall Burden. "You worked a task force with the Feebs in the early eighties, right?"

Burden nodded.

"You took down a small-timer named Raymond Harris, stole a truckload of Trivial Pursuit from a rest stop in Cranston, Rhode Island."

Burden smiled at one of the Yogi Berra quotes in the calendar. "Yeah. Trucker went to take a piss, didn't know he was staked out. The Harris guy jacked the truck and drove away, but the trucker called in, put it on the wire right away, we pulled the thing over in Needham."

"But Harris walked," Sean said.

Burden looked up at him for the first time, Sean seeing the fear and self-hatred in those milky eyes and hoping he never caught what Burden had.

"He didn't walk," Burden said. "He rolled. He rolled on the guy who'd hired him for the trucking job, guy name a Stillson, I think. Yeah, Meyer Stillson."

Sean had heard about Burden's memory? supposedly photographic? but to see the guy reach back eighteen years and pluck names out of the fog like he'd been talking about them yesterday was humbling and depressing at the same time. Guy could have run the whole show, for Christ's sake.

"So he rolled and that was it?" Whitey said.

Burden frowned. "Harris had a record. He wasn't walking just because he gave us his boss's name. No, BPD's Anti-Gang Unit stepped in to get info on another case, and he rolled again."

"On who?"

"Guy ran the Rester Street Boys, Jimmy Marcus."

Whitey looked over at Sean, one eyebrow cocked.

"This was after the counting room robbery, right?" Sean said.

"What counting room robbery?" Whitey asked.

"It's what Jimmy did time for," Sean said.

Burden nodded. "Him and another guy took off the MBTA counting room on a Friday night. In and out in two minutes. They knew what time the guards changed shifts. They knew exactly when they bagged up the cash. They had two guys out on the street who stalled the Brinks truck as it came to make the pickup. They were slick as hell and they knew too much not to have had a guy on the inside, or at least someone who'd worked for the T at some point in the previous year or two."

"Ray Harris," Whitey said.

"Yup. He gave us Stillson and he gave the BPD the Rester Street Boys."

"All of 'em?"

Burden shook his head. "No, just Marcus, but he was the brains. Cut off the head, the body dies, you know? BPD picked him up coming out of a storage warehouse the morning of the Saint Pat's parade. That was the day they planned to split up the take, so Marcus had a suitcase full of money in his hand."

"But wait," Sean said, "did Ray Harris testify in open court?"

"No. Marcus cut a deal long before it went to court. He dummied up on who he'd been working with and he took the fall. All the shit everyone knew he'd been behind they couldn't prove. Kid was like nineteen or something. Twenty? He'd been running that crew since he was seventeen and he'd never even been arrested. DA cut the deal for two inside, three suspended, because he knew there was a good chance they wouldn't even be able to convict in open court. Heard the Anti-Gang guys were pissed, but whatta you going to do?"

"So Jimmy Marcus never knew Ray Harris ratted him out?"

Burden looked up from the calendar again, fixed his swimming eyes on Sean with a vague contempt. "In a three-year span, Marcus pulled off something like sixteen major heists. Once, right, he hit twelve different jewelers in the Jeweler's Exchange building on Washington Street. Even now, no one knows how the fuck he did it. He had to circumvent close to twenty different alarms? alarms running off phone lines, satellites, cellular, which was a completely new technology back then. He was eighteen. You believe that shit? Eighteen years old and he's breaking alarm codes that pros in their forties couldn't crack. The Keldar Technics job? He and his guys went in through the roof, jammed the fire department frequencies, and then they set off the sprinkler system. Best anyone could figure at the time, they were hanging suspended up at the ceiling until the sprinkler system shorted out the motion detectors. The guy was a fucking genius. If he went to work for NASA instead of himself? We'd be taking the wife and kids on vacation to Pluto. You think a guy this smart wouldn't have figured out who fingered him? Ray Harris vanished from the face of the earth two months after Marcus rotated back into the free world. What does that tell you?"

Sean said, "It tells me you think Jimmy Marcus murdered Ray Harris."

"Or he had that midget prick, Val Savage, do it. Look, call Ed Folan at the D-7. He's a captain there now, but he used to work the Anti-Gang Unit. He can tell you all about Marcus and Ray Harris. Every cop who worked East Bucky in the eighties will tell you the same thing. If Jimmy Marcus didn't kill Ray Harris, I'm the next Jewish pope." He pushed the calendar away with his finger and stood up, hitched his pants. "I gotta go eat. You take her easy, fellas."

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