Table of Contents
A division of Penguin Young Readers Group.
Published by The Penguin Group.
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014, U.S.A.
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto,
Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.).
Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England.
Penguin Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland
(a division of Penguin Books Ltd).
Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia
(a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd).
Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park,
New Delhi—110 017, India.
Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632, New Zealand
(a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd).
Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank,
Johannesburg 2196, South Africa.
Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England.
Copyright © 2009 by Robert B. Parker. All rights reserved. This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the publisher, Philomel
Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 345 Hudson Street, New York, NY
10014. Philomel Books, Reg. U.S. Pat. & Tm. Off. The scanning, uploading and distribution
of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher
is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do
not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of
the author’s rights is appreciated. The publisher does not have any control over and does
not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
Published simultaneously in Canada. .
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Parker, Robert B., 1932-
Chasing the bear : a young Spenser novel / Robert B. Parker. p. cm.
Summary: Spenser reflects back to when he was fourteen years old and how he
helped his best friend Jeannie when she was abducted by her abusive father.
[1. Kidnapping—Fiction. 2. Child abuse—Fiction. 3. Friendship—Fiction.
4. Bullies—Fiction.] I. Title.
PZ7.P2346Ch 2009 [Fic]—dc22
eISBN : 978-1-101-03283-1
For Joanie: The One
was sitting with the girl of my dreams on a bench in the Boston Public Garden watching the swan boats circle the little lagoon. Tourists fed the ducks peanuts from the boats and the ducks followed them.
“It’s a nice place,” Susan said, “isn’t it, to sit and do nothing.”
“I’m not doing nothing,” I said. “I’m being with you.”
“Of course,” she said.
The swan boats were propelled by young men and women who sat in the back of the boat and pedaled. The exact appeal of the swan boats had always escaped me, though I too felt it and had, upon occasion, gone for a ride with Susan.
We were quiet and I could feel her looking at me.
“What?” I said.
“I was just thinking how well I know you, and how close we are, and yet there are parts of you, parts of your life, that I know nothing about.”
“Like?” I said.
“Like what you were like as a kid; it’s hard to imagine you as a kid.”
“Even though you have often suggested that I am still a kid, albeit overgrown?”
“That’s different,” Susan said.
“I simply can’t picture you growing up out there in East Flub-a-dub.”
“Your geography has never been good,” I said.
“Where was it?” Susan said.
“West Flub-a-dub,” I said.
“I stand corrected,” she said. “What was life like in
“Where should I start, Doctor?”
“I know your mother died right before you were born by cesarean section. And I know you were raised by your father and your mother’s two brothers.”
“We had a dog too,” I said.
“I think I knew that as well,” Susan said. “Her name was Pearl, was it not, which is why we’ve named our dogs Pearl?”
“German shorthairs should be named Pearl,” I said. “So what else would you like to know?”
“There must be more you can tell me than that,” Susan said.
“You think?” I said.
“I think,” Susan said. “Talk about yourself.”
“My favorite topic,” I said. “Anything special?”
“Tell me about what comes to your mind,” she said. “That will sort of tell us what you think is important.”
“Wow,” I said. “Being in love with a shrink is not easy.”
“But well worth the effort,” Susan said.
“Well,” I said.
Susan leaned back on the bench and waited.
father and my uncles were carpenters and shared a house. They all dated a lot, but my father never remarried, and my uncles didn’t get married until I left the house. So for me growing up it was an all-male household except for a female pointer named Pearl.
Parents’ Day at school was a sight. They’d come, the three of them, all over six feet, all more than two hundred pounds, all of them hard as an axe handle. They never said a word. Just sat there in the back of the room, with their arms folded. But they always came. All three.
My father boxed and so did my uncles. They’d pick up extra money boxing at county fairs and smokers. They began to teach me as soon as I could walk. And until I could take care of myself, they took care of me . . . pretty good.
Once when I was ten, I went to the store for milk and coming home, I passed a saloon named The Dry Gulch. Couple of drunks were drinking beer on the sidewalk. They said something, and I gave them a wise guy answer, so they took my milk away and emptied it out. One of them gave me a kick in the butt and told me to get on home.
When I got home, I told my uncle Cash, who was the only one there. One of them was always there. Cash asked me if I was all right. And I said I was. He asked me if I might have been a little mouthy. I said I might have been. Cash grinned.
“I’m amazed to hear that,” Cash said.
“But I didn’t say anything real bad.”
“Course you didn’t,” Cash said.
“One of them kicked me,” I said.
“I’ll keep that in mind,” he said. “And when Patrick and your father come home, we’ll straighten things out.”
they got home, Cash and I told them about what happened. Patrick and my father and Cash all exchanged a look, and my father nodded.
Patrick said, “If you saw him again, could you point out the guy who kicked you?”
“Sure,” I said.
“Let’s go down and take a look,” my father said.
So all of us, including the dog, went down to The Dry Gulch and walked in.
“Sorry, pal,” the bartender said to my father. “Can’t bring that dog in here.”
My father said to me, “See any of the people that gave you trouble?”
“Which ones?” my father said.
“You hear me?” the bartender said. “No dogs.”
There were six guys drinking beer together at a big round table. I pointed out two of them. My father nodded and picked me up and sat me on the bar.
“Which one kicked you?” he said.
“The one in the red plaid shirt,” I said.
My father looked at Patrick.
“You want him?” my father said.
“I do,” Patrick said.
“Yours,” my father said.
“Mister,” the bartender said. “Maybe you don’t hear me. Get that dog out of here . . . and get the damn kid off the bar.”
Without even looking at him, my father said, “Shut up.”
Pearl sat down in front of the bar near my feet. All the men at the round table were staring at us. My two uncles walked over and leaned against the wall, near the round table. Patrick was looking at the man in the red plaid shirt.
My father walked over to the round table.
“You,” he said to one of the men. “Step out here.”
“What’s your problem?” the man said.
“I don’t have a problem,” my father said, “you do, and it’s me.”
“That kid been crybabying about me?” the man said.
“That kid is my son,” my father said. “The gentlemen leaning on the wall are his uncles. We’re here to kick your ass.”
The man looked at his five friends and stood up.
“Yeah?” he said.
They all stood up. My father hit the man and the fight started. Pearl and I stayed quiet, watching. Behind me, I heard the bartender calling the police.
By the time the cops arrived, both the men who had teased me were out cold on the floor. The man in the red plaid shirt was lying outside on the sidewalk. I don’t quite know how that happened, except that my uncle Patrick had something to do with it. The other three guys were sitting on the floor looking woozy.
The cop in charge, a sergeant named Travers, knew my father.
“Sam,” he said. “You mind telling me what you boys’re doing?”
“They harassed my kid on the street, Cecil,” my father said. “Stole his milk.”
Travers nodded and looked at the bartender.
“I believe I been telling you, Tate,” he said, “to keep the drunks inside the saloon.”
“They got no call to come in here and beat up my customers,” the bartender said.
“Well,” Travers said. “They got
call. Your kid gets bothered by a couple drunks, you got some call.”
He looked around the room and then at my father.
“Maybe not this much call,” he said. “Probably gonna get fined, Sam.”
“Worth the money,” my father said.
“Known it was you three,” he said, “I’d have brought more backup.”
“Ain’t supposed to bring no dog in here either,” the bartender said. “Board of Health rule.”
“We’ll go hard on them ’bout that,” Travers said.
My father came over and took me off the bar.
“Probably have to appear in court to pay the fine,” Travers said.
“Lemme know,” my father said.
He walked toward the door. Pearl and I followed him. My uncles closed in behind us.