Abraham dialed the number and his foot jiggled as he waited for someone to
“This is Abraham Sorkin.”
“Abraham, thank God. Patrick Roberts shot himself last night."
Abraham gasped. Then he took control
of his voice, forced his hands to be steady. “If thine eye offend thee…”
“It’s from the Gentile Bible. Never mind. Did he leave a note?”
“Yeah. I talked to his daughter this morning. Something about nightmares he was having. Seeing things.”
“You agree now
that I was right?” Abraham suddenly felt great weight on his shoulders. He lowered himself into a chair beside the table
where the phone rested.
“They want to
get up and running as fast as they can. Before anyone connects the dots, so to speak. Finish the research, get a shrink on
board to check people out before we take ‘em on as patients.”
“They’re not your patients.”
“Not technically. But we’re all in this together. You know that now, right, Abraham? There’s
no getting out.” There was a click and the line went dead.
He pulled up the shawl collar of his burgundy sweater. Not one, but three suicides. The other had warranted only five lines
in the second “A” section of “The Denver Post.” Lakewood woman found dead of self-inflicted gun shot wounds. Now there was a third.
What were they seeing, these people? Steve Voight told his religious wife he saw
hell. What kind of reason was that to kill yourself? What did hell look like? It couldn’t be worse than Bergen-Belsen,
with its mud and stench and piles of rotted cloth and bodies lying in the snow. That was hell. Not some place out of a holy
“And I am still here,” Abraham stiffened, remembering the hate in Rebbe Liebbman’s voice, “in
this place, to which God has brought me.”
Paige McKenzie sat in a basement room at Hope
Tabernacle. Heat ducts spanned the ceiling, and dust filled cracks in the cement floor. A bare bulb lit the room, frayed wiring
duct-taped to the wood beams overhead. She was oblivious to her surroundings, absorbed in conversation with the man seated
across the table from her.
Paige. you can’t tell anyone about this. Not even your husband. Do you have a cover story?” The man turned his
hand and the stones in his ring flashed, projecting rainbows on the cement wall.
“I told Ron I’m going to a church retreat. I don’t think he’ll question me. He knows
how involved I’ve been lately. Everything’s ready: blankets, pillow, candles, tape. I won’t disappoint you.”
“Or God. This
is a holy mission. We chose you because we know your devotion. Like Paul said to the Philippians, ‘He who began a good
work in you will complete it.” The man leaned forward, patting Paige‘s hand with his own well-manicured one, setting
the rainbows on the wall dancing again. ‘Work out your salvation,’ Paul said, and that’s exactly what you’re
for the chance. I know God will let me see my baby again, once I do this for the Kingdom, and the Cause. You don’t know what that means to me. I just
hope I can be half as strong as
you, or Pastor Soudo. We have to stop these people.”
“And we will. We can’t scare the old Jew, he doesn’t have a lot to lose. But maybe he’ll be concerned enough for the safety of
his nurses to close down. We’ll let him know we can get to them any time we want."
“How will it
work?” Paige’s skin was clammy. She licked her lips for the umpteenth time and her tongue explored a flap of skin where they’d cracked open.
“These rooms haven’t been used in years. They put in central air some time back and bypassed the old furnace. Linoleum’s so brittle
out in the hall, it breaks if you drop something on it. I’d have gutted this whole section, remodeled it, but the church folks just started storing stuff down here. There’s even a bathroom and an old
kitchen area, but there’s nothing in it. Most of the time, there’s no juice to the lights. The heat still runs though; they didn’t want to tear
out the old plumbing and they
don’t want frozen pipes.”
“So we’re going to keep her down here?”
“Can you handle that?”
“Do I have to stay all night?”
“Yeah. Sorry, but it might be a couple of nights. It all depends on how they set things up with the old doc. But you don’t have to stay
in the basement, as long as you don’t turn on any lights. We’ll fix it so no one’s in the building. If someone
does come, you can hightail it down here until they leave. You’ll hear them walking upstairs.”
“And all I have
to do is keep her here.”
“A guard. That’s all. You don’t want to let her get a look at you, though. When we turn
her loose, we don’t want her running to the police with your description. Keep a gag on her during the day when somebody
might be upstairs. I don’t think they’d hear her, but you never know. Keep the lights turned off down here. Use
those candles and don’t hold them too near your face.”
Paige nodded. “Okay,
when do we go?”
“Whenever we get the go-ahead. The sooner the better.” He smiled at her, showing even white teeth.
“As far as I‘m concerned, it could be tonight,” Paige said, returning his smile.
“Okay. Sit up and drink this.” Macie opened her eyes and squirmed
on the sofa as Phil crossed the room with a steaming mug in his hand.
“I was napping."
“You need milk.
“I hate hot milk.”
“Either sit up and drink this or get off your lazy bottom and do the laundry.” Phil winked and shoved the cup at her before retiring to his chair.
“I was dreaming about the car. The red one.”
“I don’t know why you won’t let me just go over there and tell her to knock it off before
we call the cops.”
Dr. Sorkin’s got some stuff going on. I don’t know what it is, but I really want to wait on the police thing. At least ‘till he has a chance
to get clear of the situatio."
do you want to do? We can’t just let her terrorize you.”
“I know. And I really want to sit back and let you take care of it, but there are so many things at stake. And what if Maxine’s neighbor
isn’t my stalker? What if it’s all a big coincidence? I just can’t risk exposing Dr. Sorkin to the police just yet."
Macie pulled her feet up under her and cradled the warm mug against her cheek. “Maybe I’ll
go back and talk to that counselor again."
“You’re not going anywhere. I’ll talk to her.” Phil came to stand over
Macie. “There. That’s my good girl. Just finish that milk and then lie back again.” He stooped to retrieve the throw Macie had sloughed
off, and tucked it around her legs. “You want me to bring you a book or something?"
Macie cringed. “I’m
fine,” she managed between clenched teeth.