Lieberman and Hanrahan had just moved to their desks, which faced each other next to the heating duct. Today was just cold enough for the automatic thermostat to kick on the heat. Hot air baked the right side of Lieberman’s face. His phone was ringing.
“Lieberman,” he said, answering the call.
“Nervous guy on the phone says he’s got to talk to you,” said Nestor Briggs. “Says he’s a rabbi. Says it’s important.”
“Put him through,” Lieberman said, looking across at his partner with a shake of his head.
“Lieberman,” Abe said again.
“Lieberman?” asked Rabbi Nathanson.
“Yes, what can I do for you, Rabbi? I haven’t had a chance to call my lawyer or discuss this further with my wife, but-“
“I’ve made a list,” Nathanson said, and Lieberman imagined the langa-loksch, the long noodle of a man, with an unfurling parchment scroll before him.
“Problems which must be remedied, alterations which must be made before we can move into the house.”
“And some necessary remodeling,” confirmed Rabbi Nathanson. “All wallpaper removed and replaced with paint conforming to my specifications. Carpets out and wooden floors sanded and treated. Complete reslating of the roof and new electrical outlets throughout.”
“You want me to pay for this?” asked Lieberman.
“It is your responsibility,” said Rabbi Nathanson.
“I thought you loved the house just the way it is.”
“I do, but it requires some maintenance to make it livable,” said the rabbi.
“I don’t think we can do business, Rabbi,” Lieberman said.
“We have a good faith contract,” Nathanson said sternly. “I gave you a check. There were witnesses.”
“Your check is going back to you in the mail tonight. No, better yet, my wife is dropping it off at B’nai Shalom this afternoon.”
“That is not acceptable, Lieberman. This is a breach of contract-no, it is a breach of faith,” said Nathanson.
“Breaking a commandment is a breach of faith,” said Lieberman calmly. “Giving your check back is common sense.”
“I have a lawyer,” said Nathanson. “Two lawyers, Greenblatt and Greenblatt.”
“Send in the Greenblatts,” said Lieberman. “Now, I’ve got to go find a murderer. Someone cut up a woman. That’s a little more important right now.”
“Dana Rozier,” said Nathanson. “I saw on the news. Are the Roziers Jewish?”
“I don’t think so, Rabbi,” said Lieberman.
“Thank God,” said Nathanson.
“My wife’s returning the check. Your lawyer and my lawyer can get together and bill us so we can both be sure of losing money on this deal. Good-bye, Rabbi.”
“It would be easier to be reasonable,” Rabbi Nathanson tried with great self-assurance.
“We agree on that,” said Lieberman and hung up the phone.
“What was that?” asked Hanrahan.
Lieberman tapped his finger on the phone and changed the subject.
“Let’s switch. I play nice guy with Rozier. You play bad guy with Patniks.”
“You think we could be wrong on this one, Rabbi?” asked Hanrahan.
“On Rozier? No, Father Murphy, he’s at the top of the short list Patniks, I’d say he didn’t kill her, but he knows something. Maybe Rozier paid him and he backed out at the last second. And our Harvey has a hell of an alibi. Clean.”
“Then who killed Dana Rozier?” Hanrahan asked.
Lieberman shrugged. His phone was ringing again. He picked it up and heard Bess say, “Abraham, Rabbi Nathanson just called me demanding about ten thousand dollars in changes to the house.”
“You know where the check is?”
“In my hand. I’d like to tear it into little pieces.”
“Put it in an envelope and drop it off at B’nai Shalom.”
“I’m Federal Expressing it with a return receipt requested,” Bess said.
“Better yet,” said Lieberman. “I gotta go.”
“Lisa wants to talk to you.”
“Dad.” Lisa’s voice, as calm and resolute as that of the mad rabbi.
“Lisa,” he said, looking at Hanrahan, who got up and moved toward the coffee across the room.
“We’ve got to talk, today.”
“I’ll try to get home early,” he said.
‘Today, not tonight.”
“I’ll be at the T and L for lunch, maybe two, maybe a little earlier.”
“I’ll be there.”
“You’re not working?”
“Not today,” she said.
Lisa hung up the phone as Hanrahan returned with two cups of coffee. He handed one to Lieberman and sat down.
“With caffeine?” Lieberman asked, looking at the cup, which had AMSTERDAM CRUISES printed on it in purple letters.
Hanrahan shrugged. Lieberman drank.
“Let’s go see if we can make a hole or two in our grief-stricken husband’s story.”
“If…” Hanrahan began shifting in his chair to get a few more inches away from the inferno belching out of die heating vent.
“Hold it,” Lieberman said, picking up on something Francis Acardo was saying on the phone a desk away.
“Francis,” Lieberman called.
Acardo put his hand over the receiver and said, “Shooting, at Doc Berry’s office. Officer down. Cars are rolling. As usual, confusion reigns.”
Both Hanrahan and Lieberman got up and, without speaking, ran for the squad room door. They were less than twelve minutes from Argyle Street in normal traffic. They made it with flashing lights in eight. Black and whites, three of them, with lights flashing, were blocking the street. People, most of them Oriental, lined the sidewalk, held back by two female uniformed officers. Lieberman pulled around the police car blocking Broadway and double-parked.
The rain had stopped, at least for now. The street was wet and the clouds gray and grumbling.
They moved past the officers holding the crowd back and saw a young patrolman kneeling over the contorted body of a young black boy. The dead boy’s hands were clutching his stomach as if he had a terrible cramp and his face was distorted in agony. He had curled up like a fetus to die.
“This one’s dead, Abe,” the kneeling patrolman said. “A knife in his pocket, two bucks and some change. No wallet, no ED.”
“Officer down?” asked Hanrahan.
The kneeling patrolman pointed to me entrance of Jacob Berry’s office.
A clot of people, all police, seemed to be sitting down for a coffee break on the steps. An ambulance wailed outside and not far away. And somewhere up the stairway a man was screaming in anger.
A third female officer, Shea, stood up when she saw the detectives, and Lieberman could now see that an older cop at the bottom of the stairs, Hugh Jensen, was cradling the head of Guy Matthews in his lap. Matthews was covered in blood. Matthews was gasping for air, his chest heaving.
“Lung, I think,” said Jensen. “Looks worse than it is. Maybe. If that goddamn ambulance would just get here and clear the blood…”
“What happened?” Hanrahan asked.
The voice above, words unclear, was screaming again.
“Looks like a shoot-out in the doc’s office upstairs,” said Shea. “Perp down up there. Two of them ran out in the street. Matthews followed them. He was already shot.”
She pointed to a trail of blood on the stairs.
“Seems they had a car waiting,” said Jensen, “but someone stole it while they were in the doc’s office. The dead one out there had a gun. Matthews shot him. The other one ran. I don’t like the way he’s breathing,” he said, looking down at the wounded officer.
Matthews was gasping for air now, eyes closed. Hanrahan stepped forward, knelt, and pried the wounded officer’s mouth open with his fingers. He turned Matthews’ head down to the right and reached into his mouth to pull out a squirming clot of blood. Then he put his mouth to that of the gasping man and began to suck out blood, spitting it onto Jensen’s shoes. Officer Shea bit her lower lip but didn’t turn away.
The ambulance was close now, wailing just outside the door. Lieberman went up the stairs. The screamer was at it again. Inside Dr. Berry’s office/examining room Abe Lieberman saw a solid tree stump of a young black man, his hands cuffed behind his back, being restrained by two uniformed officers. The young man was seated in the same chair Lieberman had sat in two days ago but kept trying to stand. Blood was oozing through a hole in his right pants leg.
“That fool,” the young man screamed in a high voice, looking across the room at Jacob Berry, who sat, stunned, behind his desk. On top of the briefcase before him sat the gun that Jacob had purchased the day before. “Where’s Lonny? What you doin’ with lago? Man, I want me a lawyer. I want me a doctor, but not that fool.”
“Shut up,” said one of the two cops through clenched teeth, pushing the screaming man back down on the chair. The cop was big. Both cops were big. They had to be to keep the screaming man down.
Lieberman moved to Jacob Berry, who was staring at the screaming young man as if he heard nothing, as if he had just been awakened and was trying to make some sense of the chaos that greeted him.
“You all right, Doc?” Lieberman said, touching his shoulder.
Jacob nodded. “I shot him,” he said, removing his glasses and looking up at Lieberman.
“Yeah,” said Lieberman.
“No, not him,” Jacob said, looking at the angry young man across the room. “The policeman shot him. I… I think… I know I shot the policeman. I should help him. I’m a doctor. I should do something.”
“You wouldn’t be much good,” said Lieberman. “Where’d you get the gun?”
“Gun? Bought it from somebody, a man, yesterday. I was afraid.”
Lieberman sighed. The young black man had gone sullenly silent after uttering one more, “Damn fool.”
“So you bought an illegal weapon,” said Lieberman. “I told you I’d help you.”
“Couldn’t wait,” said Berry, throwing up his hands.
A scrambling out the door and down the stairs, voices of paramedics.
“I’ve got to help,” Jacob Berry said, wiping his eyes with his sleeve and rising.
“Sure,” said Lieberman, stepping out of the way.
Jacob Berry didn’t glance at the restrained man who had cursed him. Instead Dr. Berry rushed to help the man who may have saved his life, me man he had shot. Lieberman rubbed a finger across his mustache and stepped over to the seated young man.
“You get me a fuckin’ doctor,” the young man screamed. “I’m bleedin’.”
“His name is Albert Davis,” said one of the officers.
“Social Security card, four dollars, a condom, and a photo ID from a drug store in his wallet. Address is on MLK Drive near Michael Reese Hospital.”
Lieberman nodded and turned to Albert Davis.
“One of your friends is dead,” he said.
“Dead?” Dalbert said, looking at each of the two uniformed policemen for confirmation. “Which one?”
“What do this lago and Lonny look like?” Lieberman said.
“How you know their names?” Dalbert said in panic.
“You told them to us a minute ago, Albeit,” Lieberman said calmly. “You want to know which one is dead and which one got away?”
“Got away? lago’s a skinny kid. Lonny’s big, got a scar like lightning over his eye.”
“Last names, Albert,” Lieberman pressed.
“Nobody calls me Albert. Dalbert. I’m Dalbert. Get me a damn doctor. Who’s dead?”
“I don’t know no last names,” the young man said sullenly as a paramedic in blue hurried into the room.
“lago’s dead,” Lieberman said.
Dalbert bit his lower lip, nodded, and went silent as the paramedic knelt to rip away his trousers and examine the bullet wound.
‘Touch nothing and call Evidence,” Lieberman told the two officers. “Leave the weapon where it is.”
Both cops nodded.
There was nothing on the steps as Lieberman walked down, nothing but a trail of Guy Matthews’s blood. Outside, the door to the ambulance was just closing. A second ambulance was rolling down the street.
The crowd had grown. Jensen and Shea had moved forward to help control it, but the sight of Bill Hanrahan, blood covering his mouth and face, was enough to restrain even the most adventurous of the gawkers. Hanrahan was doing his best to remove the Wood with a handkerchief, but he wasn’t making much headway.
“How you doin’, Father Murphy?”
“I’ll be fine, Rabbi.”
“Dead kid’s name is Lago,” said Lieberman, looking at the sheet that now covered the body. “One that got away is Lonny. I’ve got a description.”
Jensen walked back to the detectives and said, “Woman in the crowd, owns the restaurant over mere. She says the one that got away ran through the alley going south. She thinks he had a gun in his hand.”
“Thanks,” said Lieberman.
Jensen glanced at Hanrahan’s ghoulish face and moved back to help control the crowd.
Police cars were pouring in now, lights flashing. The sound of the siren diminished as the ambulance carrying the fallen officer sped toward Edgewater Hospital. Applegate and Acardo piled out of one of the cars.
“Where’s Berry?” asked Lieberman.
“Went in the ambulance with Matthews,” said Hanrahan.
“Let’s go in the restaurant and get you washed up,” said Lieberman.
“He’s not that far ahead of us, Abe,” Hanrahan said, moving toward the restaurant “I’ll make the calls,” said Lieberman as the crowd parted to let the hulking, bloody policeman through.
Lieberman brought Applegate and Acardo up to date and left them to pick up the pieces and put the story together.
Lieberman went to his car and made the calls. Comb the neighborhood looking for a young black man with a lightning scar through his eyebrow. Probably armed. Definitely dangerous. Try to head off the north- and southbound el trains and search them. Check the buses. Check the cabs. It wouldn’t be fast enough, Lieberman knew, but it had to be done. The young man named Lonny was probably out of the neighborhood by now. Alone, afraid, and armed. A very bad combination.
Lieberman got an idea. He called the Chapultapec Restaurant on North Avenue.
“Si, ” a man’s voice answered.
“Es Emiliano all asked Liebetman.
“iQuien es esto?”
“Lieberman. Es necesario que hablo con Emiliano inmediatamente.”
“Emiliano no estd aqui.”
“Buscale. Tiene prisa. Diga que tengo algo a decir de Chuculo Fernandez. Comprende?”
“Comprendo. Su numero?”
Liebennan gave the number of the T and L Deli and told the man on the phone that he’d be there in fifteen minutes.
“Bueno,” said the man and hung up.
The car door opened and Hanrahan, his hair and jacket front wet, slid inside.
“You clean up good, Murph.”
“Compulsive cleaner, Rabbi.”
“I know. You up for an early lunch?”
Lieberman put the car in gear as Hanrahan smiled and nodded.
Fifteen minutes later they parked on Devon, half a block from Maish’s T amp; L. The clouds complained but didn’t burst as they moved past Kim the Korean’s Devon Television/VCR Repair Shop, the Dollar Store, also owned by Kim, and the Pistoki brothers’ fruit market.
The T and L was empty except for Maish behind the counter reading a book and one Alter Cocker, the redheaded Al Bloombach, who sat alone at the table reserved for the old men, a coffee and half-eaten bagel in front of him. Something was cooking for the lunch crowd. A cabbage pot. Lieberman was sure it was a forbidden cabbage pot. Torture inflicted by Dr. Jacob Berry, who, when he came out of his minishock, would face a far greater torture.
“Where’s everybody?” Lieberman asked.
“Baseball game. Syd’s son rented a van. They all go to the ball game,” explained Al Bloombach.
“And you?” asked Lieberman, moving with Hanrahan to the counter and sitting on the red leatherette stool.
“My sciatic,” said Al. “Who wants to sit in the rain with sciatic? And to tell the truth, I’m not such a big baseball fan. Give me the football and I’ll watch till the last rumble.”
Maish looked up from his book and met his brother’s eyes.
“How’s Yetta?” asked Abe.
“She’s Yetta,” said Maish with a shrug.
“You know. Nothing Bothers Maish,” Maish said. “What can I get you, William?”
“Coffee. What’s good on rye today?”
“A Sandy Koufax. Pastrami, chopped liver, and cole slaw with a pickle,” said Maish.
“Heartburn heaven,” Al Bloombach called.
“I’ll take it,” said Hanrahan.
“Abe?” asked Maish.
“Seltzer and toast me a bagel. No butter.”
“Diet again?” asked Maish.
“Cholesterol’s a little high,” said Abe.
Maish called the order back to Manuel in the kitchen and turned his homely bulldog face to his brother.
“We’re coming over Friday for dinner,” Maish said. “Bess invited.”
“Dinner and services,” said Abe.
“I’m not going to services anymore,” said Maish, finding a spot on the counter that may have been a smudge of mustard. He attacked it with a wet cloth. “I’m not on speaking terms with God right now. When your only son is gunned down by a crazy man in the street for no reason, you tend to get that way. It’s reasonable. What d’you think, William?”
Maish poured a cup of coffee and set it down in front of Hanrahan.
“I’m a Catholic,” he said.
Maish nodded as if that made perfect sense.
“A Catholic. You’re not supposed to get mad at God. You are supposed to make love, not war. Well, I heard on the radio something that made sense, from an Arab no less. The opposite of war is not love. The opposite of war is peace. You don’t have to love your enemy. It’s not reasonable. Peace, now that’s another story. God wants to make peace with me he knows where to find me, but so far he hasn’t come knocking and he hasn’t sent me a telegram.”
“Maish,” Abe tried.
“Seltzer and a bagel and a Sandy Koufax. I know.”
The phone rang as Maish shuffled away in search of seltzer. Lieberman leaned over the counter, groped for the phone, found it on the fourth ring, and placed it in front of him on the counter.
“Hello,” he said. “Maish’s T and L.”
“Viejo,” came the voice of Emiliano “El Perro” Del Sol, the leader of the Tentaculos, the gang that ruled North Avenue when there were enough of them out of jail.
“Emiliano, I’ve got a deal for you.”
Lieberman imagined the slightly mad El Perro sitting in the Chapultapec in near darkness or in his recently acquired bingo parlor on Crawford Avenue.
“I got a deal for you?” said El Perro. “Ain’t you gonna ask how I’m doin’? How’s my mother? How’s my sister? How’s Piedras?”
“How are they?” Lieberman asked as Maish placed a large glass of seltzer before him.
“Bueno,” said El Perro. “My family. I take care of my family. You know that. I take care of you. You’re like an uncle to me, a crazy uncle, Tto Loco.”
Lieberman had developed a reputation for recklessness on the streets when he worked out of the North Avenue before being transferred to Clark Street.
Part of the reputation was earned. Most of it was calculated. But Emiliano Del Sol had believed all of it as a Md and respected the old Jew policeman who was every bit as wild as El Perro himself.
“Chuculo Fernandez,” said Lieberman after taking a sip of seltzer. “He’s like a brother too?”
“More like a cousin, you know?”
“He’s in trouble, Emiliano.”
“Yo se, Viejo. jQue tiene a decir?”
“Quiero a ayudarle,” said Lieberman. “I’m looking for a young black man named Lonny. Doesn’t have a last name. I’m working on that He’s got a scar running through his right eyebrow. Runs with a pair named lago and Dalbert. lago’s dead. Dalbert’s bleeding and Lonny’s on the streets with a gun. Dalbert’s a South Sider. Lonny figures to be the same.”
“We find him and… r — “Chuculo walks,” said Lieberman, looking at Hanrahan, who was accepting a plate with a fat, heavenly smelling sandwich.
“Vem? He just walks. You got that kinda cojones, Viejo? Let my man Chuculo walk?”
“You got my word, Emiliano. But it’s got to be fast and I don’t want Lonny hurt. You turn him up by tomorrow morning and you can come pick up Chuculo Fernandez and have him in front of the Chapultapec with his knife in his pocket by three. We find him first and there’s no deal.”
“I like you, Viejo,” said El Perro.
“It is the knowledge of that affection that sustains me in trying moments,” said Lieberman.
El Perro laughed. “You are some crazy son of a bitch,” he said.
“I try to keep the troops amused,” said Lieberman. ‘Tomorrow morning.”
“He’s alive, we find him. I’ll put Los Negms on this.”
Los Negros were the Oliveros, two black brothers and a cousin, from Panama City. Los Negros could go on the South Side looking for Lonny. The rest of the Tentaculos would get cold looks, no answers, and a ten-to-one certainty that someone would get hurt.
“Sounds good to me,” said Lieberman.
El Perro hung up the phone and Maish brought the toasted bagel. Hanrahan laughed and said, “You’re a devious one, Rabbi.”
“What?” asked Maish.
“We have to let Fernandez go by tomorrow no matter what,” Lieberman explained, looking longingly at the sandwich his partner was downing. “Our witness backed out.”
“How about an omelette with Egg Beaters, onions, some mushrooms?” Maish asked.
Lieberman shrugged in resignation.
Maish nodded and called back me order.
“How are you doing, Father Murph?”
“I’m pleased to announce that I’ve regained my appetite.”
“I didn’t know you’d lost it”
“Briefly,” said Hanrahan, taking a bite of his pickle. “The truth, Abraham. You think Iris and I could make it? I mean, married?”
“Who knows?” said Lieberman, finishing the last of his bagel.
“Marriage is an institution,” called Al Bloombach. “A mental institution.”
Al chuckled, proud of himself and sorry he had no Alter Cockers around to appreciate his joke.
“You’re a big help, Rabbi,” said Hanrahan.
“Marry her,” said Lieberman, holding up his empty glass for a refill.
“I’m an irresponsible Irish cop with a drinking problem that might come back when I’m not on guard. She’s Chinese and she’ll be shunned by her people.”
“Don’t marry her,” said Lieberman.
“That’s your advice? Marry her or don’t marry her?”
“That’s my advice too,” said Maish, shuffling to the kitchen.
“If you have kids…” Bloombach called.
“No kids,” said Hanrahan. “We’re both too old for kids.”
“Father Murph,” Lieberman said. “If I don’t give advice, I can’t be blamed for giving bad advice if it goes wrong. I won’t get credit for good advice either, but that’s easier to live with.”
Maish schlepped the omelette from the kitchen and placed it in front of Lieberman. It didn’t smell half bad.
“After we eat-” Lieberman began.
“Patniks for me. Rozier for you,” said Hanrahan.
“And tea for two,” called Al Bloombach.
“That man is desperately in need of companionship,” said Lieberman, probing his omelette with a fork.
Behind the two policemen the T amp; L door swung open and someone said, “Hello, Uncle Maish.”
Lisa. Lieberman had forgotten about his daughter.
“I’m on my way, Rabbi,” said Hanrahan, counting off five dollars and dropping them on the counter as he stood.
“Lisa, I’m going through the motions,” said Maish.
“How are you, Lisa?” Bill Hanrahan said, abandoning his partner to his family.
“All right,” she said, moving past him and sitting next to her father.
“Good to hear it,” Hanrahan said. “See you at the station, Abe.”
“At the station,” Lieberman echoed.
“What can I get you, Lisa?” Maish asked. “Manny’s almost got the pickled whitefish ready.”
“Coffee, toast,” she said, looking at her father.
Lieberman turned and met his daughter’s eyes. She looked serious.
“Abe,” she said. “Todd’s going to marry her. He wants the divorce and he’s going to marry her.”
“I know,” said Lieberman, realizing even as he spoke mat he had made a massive error.
“You knew and you didn’t tell me?”
“He mentioned it when he brought the kids home last night,” said Abe, giving up his search for anything meaningful in the omelette. “I haven’t had a chance to see you.”
“I can’t stay in the same city with them,” she said.
“It’s a big city with lots of suburbs,” Abe said. “You give them north of Howard Street and you take the rest.”
“That’s not funny,” she said, watching her uncle place a hot coffee mug in front of her. “How’s Aunt Yetta?”
“She’s Aunt Yetta,” said Maish, moving away with a shrug.
“You should help him, Abe,” Lisa whispered, picking up her coffee cup.
“I’m trying, Lisa,” he said. “What’s the issue?”
“Issue?’ “You, your mother. On the phone. I know an issue when I hear one coming.”
“I can’t stay in Chicago,” she said. “There’s too much… I can’t stay.”
Lieberman wished he could dangle the prospect of Dr. Jacob Berry before his daughter, but Berry’s eligibility had been seriously compromised. In fact, the odds were good that Dr. Berry’s medical license was in jeopardy and that, if Matthews died, involuntary manslaughter and possession of an illegal weapon were in his future. Lieberman’s mind raced for a possible substitute. He even considered Alan Kearney, then immediately rejected the idea.
“Where are you going?”
“San Francisco,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to live in San Francisco, you know that.”
Abe knew nothing of the kind, but he nodded in agreement.
“When?” he asked.
“Soon, next month. Right after Barry’s bar mitzvah. I want you to tell Todd that I agree to the divorce. I want nothing from him, not even support for the children.”
“I’ll tell him.”
“And you can send me whatever papers need to be signed.”
“I will,” he promised. “Anything else?”
“Yes, I talked to Mom about this. She said it was all right with her if it’s all right with you.”
Lieberman could feel it coming. He faced his daughter in the hope of intimidating her into backing down, but the past thirty-five years told him it was hopeless.
“You want to leave the kids with us,” he said.
“For awhile,” she said. “I think I can get a job with a pharmaceutical company in Oakland, but the cost of living there, transportation, setting things up…” ‘Todd would help,” Abe said.
Lisa looked deeply into her steaming coffee and shook her head.
“I don’t want anything from Todd.”
No, you want something from me and your mother, Abe thought, but was wise enough this time to say nothing. And besides, the prospect of having Barry and Melisa around without Lisa to tell him the proper way to treat them was tempting.
“Let’s set a time limit,” Lieberman said.
“Just six months,” she said. “And I’ll come back and visit on holiday weekends. I can get a special rate if I book in advance.”
“Six months,” Abe repeated.
“Maybe a little less, maybe a little more. I couldn’t stand being away from Barry and Melisa for long.”
“I’m more than sixty years old, Melisa. Your mother’s… a little younger.”
Her eyes met his, moist, pleading, hopeful, a look he hadn’t seen from her in almost thirty years.
“Fine,” he said with a sigh.
She hugged him, something she had done only once in the last twenty years, the night after Maish’s son David was murdered.
“What?” asked Maish, coming with coffee refills.
“Lisa’s moving to San Francisco,” Abe said. “Bess and I are keeping the kids till she gets settled.”
The door behind Lieberman opened and someone said, “What smells so good, Maish?”
“Boiled cabbage, pickled whitefish,” said Maish.
The rush hour lunch had begun.
“Gregor, what are you doin’?”
When he had returned from the lineup, George Patniks had told his mother as little as possible and then gone down to his room to pace and listen to Sally Jessie and his mother laugh above him.
He tried to think about painting, a new painting, something light for a change-trees, a park, kids, oranges, anything-but nothing took shape. He paced.
Rozier had been behind that mirror, looking at him, gauging him, knowing that the police suspected something. Was Rozier home now? Or was he in his car searching for George, a long, sharp knife tucked into his belt?
Then, after a full hour of pacing and well into Oprah, George pulled out the painting of the murderer and the dying woman, packed it in cardboard, and taped it tight, then packed a bag and went upstairs.
“I’m going to Seattle, Ma,” he said. “I’ll call Tommy, tell him to look out for you. Anyone comes looking for me, you tell ’em I went to Seattle for an art show.”
“With one painting you’re going to an art show?”
“I shipped the others.”
“When? Where you ship the others?”
“Last week. You were sleeping.”
“Gregor, what’s wrong?’ “The damn television is too loud, that’s what’s wrong. I can’t think. I can’t paint. I’ll be gone a week, maybe two. Promise. I gotta go. I’ll call.”
“What’s wrong, Gregor?” she repeated, summoning the energy to rise from her chair.
“I’m going, Ma,” he said. “I’ll call you.”
He left her standing heavily in front of the serious face of Oprah, who was talking about children with some rare disease.
“I’ll call,” he repeated at the door. “Don’t worry.”
He opened the door, took a step down, and found himself facing one of the cops he had seen after the lineup, a big cop with a pink face.
“Suitcase in one hand, what looks like a wrapped-up painting in the other,” said Bill Hanrahan. “Being a good detective, I’m gonna conclude that you’re taking a little trip.”
“I was going to call my parole officer before I left,” George said. “I’ve got a chance to make a big sale in Seattle.”
“My partner thinks the Seattle stuff is a bunch of bullshit, George,” Hanrahan said with a smile. “Why don’t we go back in and talk about this morning, maybe look at some of your work? Abe says you’ve got talent.”
“I’ll miss my bus,” George pleaded.
“That you will,” agreed Hanrahan sadly, hearing his father’s voice. “That you will.”
Eupatniaks, that was die name, Harvey Rozier remembered. He had tried every Patniks in the book-well, the three listed-but now he was searching for a Eupatniaks. He wasn’t sure of how to spell it, but how many variations could there be?
In five minutes, Harvey had narrowed the list down to three names. He called the first and asked if George was there.
“George doesn’t live here,” the woman said. “His brother Tommy lives here. You want George, you call him at Wanda’s.”
“I don’t have the number.”
The woman on the other end gave a put-upon sigh and gave Harvey a phone number.
“I’m sorry,” he said, turning on the charm, “but do you have the address?”
He waited for her to question his request, but she simply gave him an address on Clyborne.
“Thanks,” he said and hung up.
Simple, it had been so simple.
Betty was sitting in the living room waiting for him when he came down. She had a magazine in her hand. She dropped it to the floor and got up.
“I’ve got to go out, Betty,” he said. “For a little while.”
“But Harvey…” she began.
He smiled and stepped forward to embrace her but stopped when he realized someone else was in the room. He turned to face Lieberman, who sat drinking coffee.
“If you’re in a hurry,” said the detective, “I’ll go with you.”
“I’m… no. It can wait Just going into the office to take my mind off of things, take care of a problem the staff is having trouble with.”
Lieberman nodded and looked at Betty Franklin, who was definitely on the edge and about to fall after Rozier’s indiscreet move.
“Good, then let’s talk about the lineup mis morning.” said Lieberman.