room wasn’t spinning as fast. That was good. Abraham looked up into Pete Conley’s ashen face.
sorry to disappoint you, Mr. Conley, but I won’t be facing the fires of Hell today.”
am as strong as a horse, Mr. Conley. As a horse.”
stood and walked to the sink for a drink of water. His legs wobbled, his forehead dripped sweat, but he wouldn’t let a Gentile buttinski know it.
is that old bat?” He peered through the blind slats into the darkness outside.
probably on her way. I’m sure it took a long time. What was she going to make…150 copies?”
or less. It doesn’t matter. It will be all the same to those hoodlums. Those Nazis."
you really think you can fool them?”
luck, we’ll buy time. That is all we can hope for. But maybe it will be enough.”
stood behind the doctor. “I can take it for you. Be your messenger.”
whirled around so fast he was dizzy again. “You? No. It won’t work. I have to go. They expect me and they said no police.”
not a cop.”
not going.” Abraham looked out the window again, while he rubbed his left arm. There was no time for pampering. Maybe it wouldn’t develop into
anything, this pressure-pain and
this tingling. Maybe it would go away. Maxine has to come. There has to be someone to take
the notes in case…
There she is.”
taxi stopped in front of Abraham’s apartment and the light came on as the passenger door opened. Maxine leaned back into the cab, probably handing the driver
his tip, then the car was gone.
good long time, you take. Your own sweet time.”
grinned as she came into the apartment, then her expression grew solemn.
what is it you’re staring at?” Abraham still rubbed his arm and he knew Maxine hadn’t missed the gesture.
He also knew his face must register some of the pain he felt. She laid her hand on his right arm.
is a slight complication,” he said.
nodded her understanding.
you get the copies?”
left his side, and opened a plastic bag she had laid on the table. “One-hundred-fifty-two pages.”
made eye contact and held her gaze. “It will be dangerous, nevertheless, Maxine.”
nodded and crossed the room to stand beside him..
will have to come. I’m sorry but—”
turned, and put her finger to his lips. “You couldn’t keep me from going.”
and settled into the passenger seat of Abraham’s Dart, and buckled up for the ride.
time is it?”
Abraham turned his wrist to look at his watch. “.”
if we don’t make it? Maxine thought. They’ll kill Macie. “We’ve got to hurry. Are you sure you can drive?”
T-REX.” Abraham checked his rear-view mirror.
T-REX. Denver always seemed to be in the middle of road construction. But T-REX was huge. It affected so many streets, they’d
even made a web site so people could keep track of all the closures and alternate routes.
do the best you can.” Maxine shifted the cumbersome journal in her lap. She’d crumpled and then smoothed several pages before adding them. It would
pass...if no one looked too closely.
Maxine watched Abraham’s face as he pulled away from the curb. She was sure he was still in pain. Maxine didn’t
bother asking though. She just watched. What was it, that as soon as she found something she wanted in life, something happened
to mess it up? Maxine slumped in the passenger seat as Abraham drove through the Denver suburb headed
for the Aurora clinic. She blotted at the wet spot on Abraham’s fake journal where she’d
dropped it in the gutter, climbing into the Dart.
brought it on?”
shrugged. “We were talking about abortion. About the clinic. He was telling me...” Abraham stopped talking as
they came up on heavier traffic.
you just let it go? At least until we get Macie back, and that woman?”
was quiet for a moment, as if he was thinking hard. “I think maybe that young lady—what’s her name…Paige—
is as much a victim in this as our Macie.”
do you figure?” Maxine felt the edge in her voice. It was cold, hard.
a victim. Obviously unstable. Mr. Conley called her a good kid.”
well we were all good kids at one time, weren’t we?” Taking a deep breath Maxine fanned herself with her glove.
She turned her head slightly so she could keep an eye on Abraham. It was hard to tell if he had no pain, or if he was controlling
it. She’d never seen him like this. Sometimes, at the
office, he seemed a hundred years old. But now…He sat tall behind the wheel. Is he stiffening against pain, or does
he feel the exhilaration I…no, this isn’t the time. It’s wrong. Still… he moves like a man in his
twenties. Or maybe his thirties, but no older.
mind returned to her teenage romance, to Tommy and his vengeful wife. Maxine didn’t hold it against the woman that she’d
called Maxine names. That she’d let Maxine know she was only a “fling.” She would have done the same thing.
For all the young wife knew, Maxine was probably a floozie from a dancehall somewhere, not a twenty-seven-year-old spinster
with a major crush on a uniform.
Abraham twisted his neck to glance at her, then turned back to the road.
voice startled her. Heat traveled up her face and she hunkered down in the seat, away from the driver, staring out the window.
light from an oncoming car stabbed through her thoughts. The view from the window jelled and she recognized their turnoff.
The brakes squealed as the car lurched to a stop.
pounded the steering wheel. “You stupid drunks. Where are the police when you need them? If I had a cell phone, I’d
call you in.”
a stop sign back there.” Maxine pointed to the intersection they’d crossed. “Abraham, please calm down.
You can’t handle more stress.”
the idiots didn’t see it.”
was in your lane.” Maxine jiggled her foot. “We’re wasting time. Let’s go.”
turned in his seat. “You want to drive?”
not from behind the wheel.” Abraham stepped on the accelerator and the engine revved. The car lurched once again and
the tires squealed.
better now?” Maxine’s jab was lost on Abraham. He was absorbed in navigating the traffic. “I’m sorry.
I know you’re doing the best…”
it. And don’t worry about me. The pain is gone. It was probably nothing more than a bit of undigested meat. ‘More
of gravy than of grave.’ ”
from A Christmas Carol. Abraham, you surprise me.”
you put aside ‘Modern Miss’ to read also the classics? This surprises me.”
smiled. He was feeling better. Still, if it was a heart attack, it might have done major damage. But some people have them
and never even know. He’d be fine. Unless there was another one.
should learn to drive. I’m not too old. There’re a lot of things I’m not too old for. Maybe Abraham will
teach me. She ran her hand over the journal’s cover. What would happen if they saw through the pages of gibberish? Maybe
they would pass, but what if they wouldn’t let Macie go anyway?
Abraham, I hope those guys don’t speak Yiddish. I hope they just look at it, and
let us all go home. Abraham...I hope you live. You’ve got to live. You’re a tough old bird, like me. You made
it through the war, Abraham. Please please please.
car slowed as they neared the clinic, then pulled into Abraham’s space behind the building. The headlights illuminated
the metal sign fastened to the wall: “Reserved for Dr. Sorkin.” Maxine slid from the seat onto the gravel, clutching
her journal, closed the door behind her, and peered down the alley. No lights. No cars. Abraham came around behind the Dart
and took her arm. It was just twelve-fifteen when he opened the back door of the Sorkin Family Clinic and they went in.
heard the back door whump shut. Soudo swore in surprise. She sat, not daring to breathe in case she missed a word. Then she heard an unmistakable feminine
brought the notes.”
Macie stood up and hobbled back to Sorkin’s office, her legs cramping from lack of exercise.
you bring her?” Soudo towered over Maxine.
Sorkin gently pulled her back. “I have had some trouble. Heart pains. She came to assure you …gentlemen would
get what you asked for. I have the journal. You can let Macie and Mrs. McKenzie go now.”
see. Well, first I want Doctor Austin to look the notes over. You don’t mind, do you? Why don’t you join your friend there and relax for a while.”
Soudo nodded in Macie’s
grief, Macie. You look like a truck ran you down.” Maxine crossed the room to Macie and pulled aside the hair, stiff with
blood, to see her wound. “Honey, this is deep. What’d they hit you with?”
fell. Hit my head on something. I think it probably looks worse than it is. What about Doctor Sorkin?”
honestly don’t know. Mr. Conley was with him. He had the signs. I was sure it was his heart, but maybe…he seems okay now. Come on.”
stepped back into the hall, where they could watch, leaving Abraham standing beside Michael Austin. The man peered at the writing in the journals.
copy machine, I can run.”
Austin humphed and leaned closer to the papers. He scanned the first page, laid it aside and looked at the second. His eyes widened and
he glanced at Abraham.
Leonard Soudo tapped a patent shoe on the clinic floor. Austin turned another page, then looked
up, meeting Abraham’s eyes.”
Soudo prodded .
hard to tell. The old buzzard wrote them in ... what’s that Jewish language?”
Austin’s eyes remained riveted to Abraham’s. “Yeah, whatever. I guess
they’re okay. It won’t
do me any good to read through it. It all looks the same to me anyway. Yeah. The numbers look right.”
Abraham nodded, almost imperceptibly, at Austin, then turned to look at Maxine.
Macie pulled at Maxine’s
sleeve. “Maxine, tell me what’s happened. Where’s Phil?”
Be still just a moment.” Maxine leaned forward, her attention on the back room.
stood, his eyes narrowed, staring at the man hunched over the notes on the table. Finally, he rubbed his hands together and smiled.
if George will just get back, we can get on with it.”
Maxine let her breath out. “Okay. We got past that one.”
what? How did you get Dr. Sorkin to bring the notes?” Macie whispered,watching the door.
are no notes.”
invented them. Abraham burned his journal.”
guess it’s not important. They’re going to kill us anyway. Where’s Phil?”
had left his office. He stood with the women at the open door leading to the waiting area.
out looking for you. With Paige McKenzie’s husband. We tried to reach them after the second call, but there was no answer
to the cell number.”
McKenzie turned to face Abraham, suddenly tuned in to their conversation.
is with him?”
I knew,” Maxine said. They weren’t real happy to be keeping company, but they
were making the best of it.”
really screwed my marriage up, didn’t I ? I just wish I could say goodbye.”
Don’t give up on second chances yet.” Maxine looked at Abraham. Macie knew she was worried. But she was hiding
it from them, playing momma.
suddenly realized there wasn‘t any sound coming from the clinic back. If she could make herself move… Come on, Macie. Have some guts. She turned to her companions, putting a finger to her lips, then crept back to
the open doorway. No one was in the room.
I think they‘re gone.” She beckoned to them. “Let‘s get out of here while we can.” She was backing
through the door, still motioning for her friends to join her, when a blow sent her careening into the wall.
so soon? We’re just starting the party. Look...” Soudo raised a box in front of him. “the party favors have
bolted to Macie’s side. “Shmuts.”
Soudo raised an eyebrow, then made an exaggerated bow to Abraham. “I assume you just paid us a great compliment, Doctor.
want me to tie them up ?” George Doman appeared at Soudo’s side.
not. They can’t be found that way. We have another plan. For now, one of us will have to sit where we can see them at
all times.” The minister smiled at Macie. “Go back and join your friends, my dear. The festivities are just beginning.”
left Paige McKenzie, and took Macie’s arm as she struggled to stand after Doman’s fist sent her crashing into
the wall. Macie leaned into Abraham’s shoulder and Maxine dabbed at a trickle of blood from Macie’s lip and pushed
her hair back from her face.
man, I’m just going to tell you this once.” Doman pointed a crooked finger at Abraham. “You just sit down
in there and keep your mouth shut. Is that understood?”
Maxine stood, supporting Macie and saying nothing. Abraham stiffened, but he nodded.
better. Now get in there.”
guess I understand your bullying us. Stands to reason you can’t tell your boss man, there, what to do.” Abraham’s
voice was barely a whisper as he nodded toward Soudo.
face clouded. “What makes you think he’s the boss? He just thinks he is. He’s a big fish in a tiny pond.”
use to whisper now. “Yes, well I understand fish stink after three days. Is there truth in that rumor?” He was
pushing his luck.
crossed the room and grabbed Abraham’s arm, twisting it behind him. Macie’s support jerked away, she staggered
and fell. Abraham’s eyes hardened and the light reflecting from them was laser sharp.
“A broch tzu dir.” Abraham spit on the floor at Leonard Soudo’s
black preacher jerked his hand away, releasing Abraham. His eyes widened and his jaw grew slack. He backed up, and stumbled
into Doman. Soudo shook his head and took a quick breath.
in there and shut up.”
Austin pulled Macie up by her shirt sleeve and steadied her on her feet. “Please don’t make this any harder than
it has to be, Mrs. Stone.”
mean there’s an easy way to get killed?” Her lip was swollen and she held a trembling hand to her mouth.
Doman stepped between Austin and Macie, put a large, grimy hand at the back of her neck, and squeezed. Lights burst in front of her as the pain increased,
until Macie whimpered. “I guess there’s easy and there’s not-so-easy. Now you three get back in there and
huffed at him, and put a protective arm around Macie.
glared at Maxine. “You keep your place, you old biddy.”
sank back into the semi-darkness of the waiting room.