Early last September, Larry Fishman moved out of his room in a Philadelphia house not far from the University of Pennsylvania. He had just turned 29, an age when most young lawyers have begun to take root and prosper as members of mainstream society.
He lugged away his few possessions -- his books and punk rock records, his small wallflower's wardrobe of black pants and buttondown shirts. Larry had pulled up roots once again. Although he had graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Berkeley, gone to law school and gained admission to the Pennsylvania bar, he seemed to have more in common with the searching and itinerant college students he had shared a house with that summer.
Larry had not been able to make a go of his life in Philadelphia. He had not cared for his job with a city judge. He seemed unable to find anything he really wanted to do as much as return to academia, even though his father was pressuring him to get work and offering to pull strings for Larry in Washington. Larry wanted no part of that. He had spoken to the Pennsylvania attorney general's office about a position, and was trying for a job as an advocate with the state of New Jersey, but he complained to his parents that his interviews never went well.
The fear that had driven him from California, where he was convinced a punk rock band called The Mutants was conspiring to take over his mind, preoccupied him even more. Larry felt hounded by enemies and anxieties.
"At the time, my brother was feeling like a refugee," said his younger sister Ruth. "He was feeling like his back was against the wall."
Ten days after he'd relocated, Larry bounced a check and his landlord kicked him out. Not long afterward, he hauled all his stuff in a U-Haul back to his parents' house in Silver Spring.
It was here on Cherry Tree Lane that Larry was to find moments of happiness. But they were short-lived. By November his father, Judge Frederick Fishman, was dead of gunshots. Larry was charged with murder, has been a fugitive ever since.
Larry had occasionally visited home during the summer.Ruth had also been staying with her parents, and one day last August the two of them had worked in the yard together.
Normally, that would not be anything special. But Larry had complained bitterly that his father never kept up the house. Judge Fishman was not a handy man. The pistachio green paint on the clapboard upper story was peeling. The yard had an unkempt look about it. Mrs. Fishman wanted a mullberry tree, that spattered berries all over the porch, taken down and brush thinned out.
Larry and Ruth bought a chainsaw and cut down a tree in the back yard. They hauled the branches to the dump in College Park and bought new trash cans.Larry was singing. He couldn't carry a tune, but that didn't trouble him. He sang "London Calling," a song by a punk group called The Clash which portends the unleashing of anarchic forces among the young.
"We felt a communion that day," Ruth said. "We were closer than we had been in a long, long time."
"It got to be kind of a family thing," Mrs. Fishman said. "Ruth and Larry were doing it as a kind of family thing."
He called up and told me he and his sister had been working in the yard cleaning up. That was the happiest I had ever heard him," said Bob Nicholson, who had been one of Larry's best friends for more than five years. The Last Autumn
Now the last autumn of the Fishman family was setting in.
Thoroughly disillusioned with law, Larry had turned to the idea of going back to graduate school for a doctorate. He wanted to write a critique of psychotherapy, a prospect that to his father seemed only to prolong the day Larry would establish himself in the workday world.
By now, Larry's fears had spread to the extent that he even suspected his sister Ruth of conspiring against him. He was extremely angry with her because she had gone out one night to The 9:30 club in Washington, a punk rock nightspot. He accused her of colaborating with his enemies. People like The Mutants had contracts all over the country, he said angrily. "He said he would never do anything to hurt her, but he hoped she would meet with an unkindly accident," Mrs. Fishman said.
In late September Larry and his father quarreled over a car. Larry had had an old family car in Philadelphia. It didn't suit him. He wanted the white family Chrysler. His father said no. In a rage, Larry removed himself to New Haven.
"Larry and I had been talking about how many young people are coming home to live with their parents, how the home is kind of a haven," Mrs. Fishman said. "After the argument I had to change my tune. I said, 'It's not just my home, Larry, it's your father's home too, and in order for this to be a haven you have to be on good terms with both of us."
In New Haven, with little more belongings than a bag of books, Larry rented Room 246 in the transit wing of the YMCA. There he stayed until Nov. 20. Punk rock music emanated from his room. He is dimly remembered as someone who adamantly kept himself in the world of strangers and transients at the Y, and for setting down point by point the reasons why he should be provided a towel.
As always, there were calls home. "Larry's feelings started to change in September when he got the feeling he wasn't welcome in the house," Mrs. Fishman said. "I thought I'd reversed what I told him about the house being a haven. I said, 'Larry, why don't you come home?' He grunted. hHe felt like I had lied to him."
Calling home in mid-November Larry told his mother that he wanted to get into a doctorate program in sociology at Yale. No one at Yale has any recollection of him. During that phone call he also asked for money so that he could go to Brazil.
"He said, 'I just want to visit people,'" Mrs. Fishman recalled.
"I said, 'Larry, we don't have that kind of money.'
"He said, 'Yes you do, you're very wealthy.'"
Before he rang off, he asked his mother one question that would later unsettle her: He asked her if she knew very much about how the police department worked.
In this last month before he went underground, Larry would grow extremely angry when his parents brought up the subject of therapy during their phone conversations. Off and on for the previous six months his mother had been trying to get him to see a psychiatrist. But when he called home Nov. 21, Larry said, "'Mom I need $100. I've decided to go see the best psychiatrist in the country."
"I said, 'Oh, Larry, that's wonderful news,'" Mrs. Fishman said. "I was so happy. I thought it was a marvelous breakthrough. He said. 'Have Dad leave $100 on the table downstairs. So his father put $100 in an envelope and left it on the table. Larry had his own key to the house."
That same day, Larry rented a silver-blue Cutlass from Hertz, using a credit card. He said he planned to return it in three days. Instead he embarked on a 2,000 mile journey south. It was a zig-zag trip marked by stops in small souther Virginia towns such as Axton and Martinsville. He headed up Route 29 toward Washington.
On Nov. 26, he tried to buy a gun from a dealer in Orange, whose suspicions were aroused and who reported the incident to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. On Nov. 27, he checked into the Warrenton Motor Lodge. There were more phone calls across the ocuntry: to Los Angeles, and to a mental hospital in Montana that had been set up in consultation with Thomas Szasz, a radical psychiatrist who disputes the idea of mental illness; to George Washington University and to The New Yorker magazine (which had just published the first of a lengthy two-part profile of psychoanalysis and a psychiatrist named Aaron Green).
And to Cherry Tree Lane.
"Toward the end he was quite angry with me, also," Mrs. Fishman said. "He and I had always been close, and up until the last month he still felt close. He felt he could trust me. He called collect from Virginia and he would say, 'You're not my parents! Why didn't you tell me you're not my parents?' He would launch into a tirade. I cut them short. It hurt too much."
On Nov. 28, Larry Fishman came home for the last time to his family's house on a dead-end street not far from the Beltway in Silver Spring. It was around 10 minutes to seven. The Fishmans' white Chrysler sat in the driveway. Larry parked out front and entered the house through the front door.
The judge was upstairs on a sofa in the living room and Mrs. Fishman was in the adjoining kitchen. The split-level house was set into a small hill, and the back doors looked out on a small back yard and a patio once plagued by mulberries.
"Larry, is that you?" Mrs. Fishman said. "Come on up."
Larry climbed the stairs and turned into the kitchen. He kissed his mother. When she reflected in the aftermath, he seemed "unusually receptive" to her embrace, Larry the son who was so reluctant to touch.
He went into his room and looked at his mail that had been forwarded from Philadelphia.
Mrs. Fishman said to Larry, "Honey, let's go into the living room and chat before dinner," and turned her back to walk toward her husband.
"In a minute, Mom," Larry said.
Mrs. Fishman had made her way to the banister near the top of the stairs half way between the living room and the kitchen. She was in a direct line with her husband when the explosion of a 9-mm. pistol deafened the room. A bullet grazed the back of her head.
To this day, she does not know who was the target of that shot.
Judge Fishman shouted, "No, Larry," and leaped toward his son, struggling for the gun.
Mrs. Fishman, at the top of the stairs, heard him say, "Call the rescue squad, I've been shot," and she scrambled down the stairs.
"Where are you going?" Judge Fishman shouted.
"To the Golacinskis,'" Mrs. Fishman cried.
"Hurry come on!" Judge Fishman yelled. Again, "Hurry come on!"
His wife assumed he was running right behind her. She heard three or four more shots as she ran down the stairs, out the front door and over to the home of Pearl Golacinski, a neighbor and friend whose 29-year-old son Allen was one of 52 American hostages in Iran.
Next door, Geza and Helen Thuronyi were eating dinner. They heard five shots that sounded like somebody banging a garbarge can. Those couldn't be shots, they thought.
Mrs. Fishman raced up to Pearl Golacinski's door. She went in, told her neighbor what was happening. They called the rescue squad, and Mrs. Fishman collapsed on a chair, bleeding from her head.
A minute later, Geza Thuronyi heard more shots, as many as five. He looked out the window.
He saw a man collapsed at the top of the Fishmans' small driveway. When he went out to look, he recognized the figure as Frederick Fishman. He told the judge to lie there and wait. Sirens were growing louder. There was blood spattered on the concrete stoop of the front house.
"Go to my house," the judge said. "My wife has been shot." Frederick Fishman rolled over on his back. It was too dark for Thuronyi to see the gunshot wounds medical examiners would find all over his body, inflicted from a short distance, according to Dr. Harmez Guard. Thuronyi remembers the judge saying something about his son driving off.
And Larry Fishman and his car were gone. Nobody had seen him leave. It was 7 p.m.
The ambulances converged. Paramedics placed Judge Fishman on a stretcher. Although not seriously hurt, Mrs. Fishman was bleeding and she was bundled into an ambulance too.
"How's my husband?" she asked the attendants. She remembers them saying, "He's just fine, he's talking, he's just fine." They wanted to take her to Seventh Adventist Hospital, but she insisted she be taken where her husband was going. She went to Suburban Hospital. At Suburban Hospital at 9 p.m. Frederick Fishman died. Epilogue
Frederick Fishman, 61, was laid to rest Dec. 1 at the King David Memorial Garden in Falls Church in a traditional pine coffin and burial shroud. More than 300 people atteneded his funeral.
Ruth Fishman flew home from Anaheim, Calif., to be with her mother. They were so frightened of Larry they would not stay at their house, and to this day, live in hiding. The day after the shooting, Montgomery County police charged Lawrence William Fishman with murder.
Three days later, Richmond authorities found the car that Larry had rented in New Haven parked by a Trailways bus terminal. That is the last lead they have. An acquaintance from his California days believes she saw him in New York's Greenwich Village during the first week in December, carrying a suitcase.
On Dec. 21, the FBI swore out a warrant for interstate flight. On Feb. 6, Larry Fishman was indicted on four counts, including murder, by a Montgomery County grand jury, and the search for the fugitive was turned over to the county sheriff's and the FBI. He is still at large, and the people who live at his old house in Philadelphia have changed the locks.
In late February, Mrs. Fishman and her daughter Ruth hired an off-duty policeman to stand guard while they boxed up all the family belongings at Cherry Tree Lane. They put the house that had been the home of the Fishmans for almost 23 years up for sale. And the affairs of their family fell into the hands of executors, prosecutors and real estate salesmen. The two women left the country for a while before returning to attempt the task of starting new lives.
It was shortly after she had put everything into storage that Mrs. Fishman had an unsettling dream. She spoke of it after she had sat listening to Ruth. She said, "I dreamed Larry was crawling along, pushing Ruth's baby carriage. He spoke to me. He said, 'If you hadn't done such and such, Mom, I wouldn't have had to kill myself."
Recalling her dream, her eyes glistened. She fell silent, bowed under sorrow.
"It's hard to keep love from overtaking you," she said. "He took my husband, but -- he's my son."