21

Ceepak and I head over to the Rosen house on Beach Lane.

“They want Christine out of the house,” I say, relaying the rest of our conversation. “Today. Like right now.”

“Sad,” Ceepak says.

“Yeah. Where’s she gonna go?”

“Actually, Danny, I was thinking about the late Arnold Rosen.”

Oh. Right. The dead guy. Guess he’s worse off than even Christine.

And then neither of us says anything else on the fifteen-minute drive down Beach Lane from the boardwalk. Death will do that to you, get you thinking. About Ceepak’s baby brother, Bill. My only real girlfriend, Katie Landry. My buddy Mook. Dominic Santucci.

And the two men I’ve personally sent to their graves.

When the Grim Reaper is riding with you, he always hogs the mental radio.

We park and climb out of my Jeep just as two gentlemen in black suits carry a rubberized body bag out the front door.

Ceepak stops walking and bows his head.

I do the same.

And then I hear Ceepak start muttering a prayer: “God full of mercy who dwells on high, grant perfect rest to the soul of Arnold Rosen.”

When Ceepak was over in Iraq, he saw a lot of guys die. Christians. Jews. Muslims. I’m guessing he memorized the right things to say for every religion when nothing you can say seems right.

We wait for the funeral home attendants to do their job and drive away in their black vehicle with the black-tinted windows. I make a sign of the cross. Sorry. It’s a nun-inflicted reflex.

Making our way toward the front porch, I notice that brand-new dune buggy wheelchair still sitting in the driveway. Guess Dr. Rosen never got to try it. Guess Monae never hid it in the garage like she was supposed to.

Inside the house, we see three mourners clustered around Dr. Rosen’s empty hospital bed: two men, one woman.

The woman has long, white-blonde hair and is dressed in a canary yellow tennis outfit that’s a little too short and hugs her body a little too tightly-especially since she has a whole lot of body to hug. I’m guessing this blonde is Shona Oppenheimer’s sister, Judith, even though Shona has jet-black hair.

Judith only has jet-black eyebrows.

And unlike super-skinny Shona, Judith has bulges and lumps swelling up in places where woman don’t usually have what Ceepak calls “protuberances.” Even her face is sort of bloated. Her cheeks and jowls crowd out her eyes, nose, and mouth so much it’s hard to tell if she and her sister have similar facial features.

Standing next to Judith is a beanpole-ish, balding man sporting a scraggly goatee. He’s wearing shorts, sandals, and a faded pink polo shirt. He also looks a little nebbishy, a Yiddish word that my buddy Joe Getzler taught me (along with schmuck, putz, and bupkes). It basically means he looks “pitifully timid.” I’m guessing he’s David Rosen because the other guy, standing across the bed from Judith, looks totally Hollywood and has to be the rich son, Michael, from LA-LA land.

Michael is wearing black jeans, black cowboy boots, and an open-collar black shirt that looks like it probably cost several hundred dollars at some black clothes boutique in Beverly Hills. His hair and beard are so neatly trimmed they appear to be the exact same length. That takes work. Or money.

“Oh, hello,” says Judith, very sweetly. When she smiles, she looks like one of those puffy marshmallow clouds on a TV weather map. “May we help you gentlemen?”

“Sorry to intrude,” says Ceepak. “I’m Detective John Ceepak with the Sea Haven Police. This is my partner Danny Boyle. Please pardon our intrusion and know that we are sorry for your loss. Dr. Rosen was good man.”

Judith blinks her piggy little eyes. Repeatedly.

“Did you know my father-in-law?” she finally asks.

“Only briefly,” says Ceepak. “But he had a very stellar reputation among the long-term residents of Sea Haven.”

“He certainly did,” says the guy with the close-cropped hair and beard. “I’m Michael. Do you know my big brother David?”

“No,” says Ceepak, stepping forward and extending his hand. “I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure.” He shakes David’s hand and then turns to Michael to shake his, too.

Like always, I follow along and do what Ceepak just did.

“Again,” says Ceepak, “our condolences on your loss.”

“Gosh, detectives,” says Judith, “I don’t mean to be rude but, may I ask: Why are you gentlemen here?”

“My dad was ninety-four years old,” says David with a goofy grin. “Surely you don’t suspect foul play in his death.”

“Of course not,” says Ceepak.

“Of course not,” echoes Judith, with a soft smile. She has a very sweet and gentle presence. Reminds me a little of this movie from the 1960s they used to show us at Holy Innocents Elementary. Debbie Reynolds in The Singing Nun. I half expect her to break into song: “Dominique, nique, nique.”

Then I remember the Rosens are Jewish.

“We’re here,” says Ceepak, “to assist Ms. Lemonopolous.”

“Christine?” says Michael.

“Yes. We understand she needs to vacate the premises.”

“We’d appreciate it,” says David, kind of brusquely. “Her services, as you might imagine, are no longer required now that Dad has passed. Monae has already moved out of her room.”

Yeah, I think, because Monae can probably move in with her brother or sister. Christine cannot.

“We’ve already contacted the rabbi,” says Judith. “The temple is making arrangements for Dad’s funeral.”

“Which,” adds David, “needs to happen right away.”

“Jewish tradition,” adds Michael.

Ceepak nods. Me, too. I went through a lot of this when Joe Getzler’s grandfather died a couple years ago.

“We’ll be sitting shiva at our home,” says Judith. “Just makes everything easier.”

“Plus,” says David, “we need to clean this place up. Get it ready to put on the market. Can’t have anyone camping out in the guest rooms. It’ll slow things down. Christine has got to go.”

“Understandable,” says Ceepak. “Where is Christine now?”

“We asked her to take a walk on the beach,” says Judith. “The three of us needed to discuss some family matters. In private.”

“For instance,” says Michael, “we need to decide who gets to take home all of these lovely photographs of my nephew, Little Arnie.”

“Dad liked them,” says David.

“Oh, I’m sure he did.” Michael gestures toward a photograph of the blonde boy poised like a quarterback about to heave a pass. “This is my personal fave. Such the little athlete. Guess he must take after Judith’s side of the family.”

Judith smiles and blinks some more.

David’s eyes drop, like he needs to examine his sandal straps.

Michael grins like he’s holding the hot cards in a high-stakes poker game.

Geeze-o, man.

This is one weird, freaky family.

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