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Authors: Sarah Segal

Murder At The Mikvah

BOOK: Murder At The Mikvah
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Murder
at the
Mikvah

 

 

Sarah Segal

 

 

iUniverse, Inc.

New York Bloomington

Murder At The Mikvah

Copyright © 2009 by Sarah Segal

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or by any information storage retrieval system without the written permission of the publisher except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

 

This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, names, incidents, organizations, and dialogue in this novel are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

 

iUniverse books may be ordered through booksellers or by contacting:

 

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Because of the dynamic nature of the Internet, any Web addresses or links contained in this book may have changed since publication and may no longer be valid. The views expressed in this work are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher, and the publisher hereby disclaims any responsibility for them.

 

ISBN: 978-0-595-53029-8 (pbk)

ISBN: 978-0-595-63083-7 (ebk)

 

Printed in the United States of America

 

iUniverse rev. date: 3/9/2009

 

 

 

For Steve

 

 

 

Authors Note:

 

Jews have been using water as a method of ritual purification for thousands of years. Translated, the Hebrew word
mikvah
means a “pool” or “gathering” of water. Mandated in the
Torah
, the Jewish Bible, male priests were required to immerse in a mikvah prior to entering the Holy Temple. The entire Jewish nation—men and women alike—did so before receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai.

Still today, immersion in a mikvah is considered an act of self-renewal and rebirth. For many men, it is customary to immerse prior to Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year. Others opt to immerse each Friday, before the onset of the Sabbath, the day itself designated for renewal.

Oceans and rivers are natural mikvahs, though often impractical due to inclement weather and the fact that one must disrobe completely before immersing. Man-made mikvahs are more commonly used; but each must adhere to strict rabbinical oversight. A typical man-made indoor mikvah will be built into the ground, or otherwise be an integral part of the building in which it is constructed. Most likely it will resemble a miniature swimming pool, or
Jacuzzi
, with stairs leading down into a depth of between four and five feet of chlorinated water. Three or four people could stand comfortably in an average sized mikvah.

As part of the larger group of laws called
Taharat Hamishpachah,
—The Laws of Family Purity—married Jewish women are instructed to immerse monthly, at the cessation of each menstrual period. As part of the preparation process, a woman first bathes in an ordinary tub. It is important to note that soaking in bathwater
can never
substitute for ritual immersion in a mikvah; for it is only through a mikvah that a woman is cleansed
spiritually
.

 

There is extensive information available on the subject of ritual immersion. To learn more, I suggest the following books:

 

Abramov, Tehilla.
The Secret of Jewish Femininity; Insights into the Practice of Taharat Hamishpachah.
New York: Targum/Feldheim, 1988.

 

Kaplan, Aryeh.
Waters of Eden: The Mystery of the Mikvah.
New York: NCSY/Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, 1976.

 

 

 One

The wind was picking up and blowing papers off Father Herbert McCormick’s desk. Earlier, before the dark clouds descended on Arden Station, he and Peter sat across from one another on two stiff leather chairs, as they did every weekday, while Peter sifted though the day’s mail. Letters were read aloud and responded to, dictated by Father McCormick to Peter who typed them out at an impressive speed on a Macintosh computer, one of several items the rectory had inherited from St. Agassi High School. Most correspondence was from former parishioners, who, befitting of their ages, preferred the old fashioned method of communication—putting pen to paper—to e-mail or even the telephone. Typically, they were short, quick letters, written with perfect penmanship of their generation, describing the latest goings on: the upcoming church bake sale, the christening of a new grandchild. Then there were the obligatory sound bites, references to Father McCormick and St. Agassi Church, intended to prove unremitting allegiance to their former parish and it’s aging priest.
The bake sales were always more profitable at St. Agassi, Father McCormick’s sermons far more inspiring.

One letter stood out today; it was from the Cardinal’s office. Typed on impressive linen stationary and stamped with the official embossed seal of his office, a royal insignia of sorts, it provided the finalized relocation plans for Father Herbert McCormick of St. Agassi Parish. As Peter was aware, Father McCormick would soon be moving across country to Arizona. In just a few months time, the priest’s new home would be Mt. Lemmon Village, an “active adult” community consisting of two hundred identical ranch style homes, each one surrounded by strategically placed palm trees, and a centrally located swimming pool and clubhouse.

Throughout his long career, Father McCormick had experienced periods where he was strongly opposed to church politics, most recently the church’s less than stellar treatment of nuns and the heinous cover up of pedophile priests; but one opinion that he held constant was the impressive way in which the church cared for it’s own. No detail was overlooked, no expense spared when it came to the retirement of those who had devoted their lives to God.

Peter dutifully moved from window to window, securing the rectory from the volatile conditions brewing outside. There was a storm advisory in effect until midnight, serious enough to interrupt
Wheel of Fortune
with a special announcement from the national weather service. A nor’easter
the weatherman called it. Lydia had called, claiming to be worried—“What if they lost power?… What if a tree fell on the rectory?” She went on and on, but Peter didn’t pay much attention to her. Lately that girl would find any excuse to call and pester him. Why couldn’t she get it through her thick skull that he wasn’t interested? He knew darn well it was his own fault for being nice to her, for giving in those few times.

He shook off the annoyance welling up inside him and headed up to the second floor. Well, hopefully there wouldn’t be any thunder tonight. Samson could get a bit unnerved by loud noises. She had already spent the last hour barking at shadows. Peter often wondered how Samson would fare during the move to Arizona. He worried the noise and turbulence would traumatize the poor dog. Father McCormick had secured permission for her to sit in the passenger area of the plane, but still, it would be her first time flying.

As Peter struggled with one particularly stubborn second floor window, he looked out at the high school next door. The
former
high school, he corrected himself as a white car pulled into a parking spot under a tree—not too smart, considering the likelihood of a hefty branch smashing through it’s windshield. A woman stepped out, grabbed her bag and headed for the back of the building. Peter gritted his teeth. This was the part that made his blood boil. Women had no business being out alone at night! He shook his head in disgust. No, it just wasn’t safe, not with all the nut jobs running around. Heck, there were even monsters in the church! Of course, it went without saying that Father McCormick was one of the good guys; but still, there were more dirt balls dressed like priests than Peter cared to count.
You can’t judge a book by it’s cover
, his momma used to say. She used to say a lot of things. He never did pay much attention—all those sayings sounded so dumb at the time—and now he would give anything to remember just half of them.

Peter pushed down on the window with his right forearm. It finally gave way and he held it down while forcing the latch into place. He did a thorough check of the rest of the floor, finishing in his own room at the end of the corridor. Then, he grabbed his binoculars and returned to the hall window. The white car was gone and there was a black Lexus parked in the lot. He adjusted the lens.
It was the blond.
He recognized her from last month. And just like then, she had her face down in the steering wheel.
What the hell did she have to cry over?
Peter waited, expecting more cars to pull in, but none came. Maybe it would be a slow night because of the weather.

They always came one woman per car; Peter had been watching long enough to know they never carpooled. Every night for the past four months or so—ever since that rear part of the high school had been renovated—different women showed up, always after dark. A couple of them were regulars, the two old ones who showed up on the same nights week after week.
Must be in charge of whatever meeting went on down there.
At first, Peter thought of AA. But he’d gone to plenty of those in the old days to know that these women were no boozers. Besides, every week there were different faces. Alcohol rehab was not for dabblers. OA? Hell no. There were a couple of chubby ones, but not so many.
Most of them were actually pretty decent looking, all dressed up in their long skirts and all.
He felt his face flush and diverted his eyes for a second, ashamed of what his curiosity had almost led him to do more than once. He knew he shouldn’t even be watching them like this. If Father knew what he'd been up to…

The truth was he
tried
not to look, but each night they came, as if taunting him, dressed as though they could be going to mass.
Hah! Jews in church!
Peter laughed out loud at the irony. The fact was that the Jews
would
be going to church. All eighteen acres that once belonged to the Catholic Church had been sold and now some kind of Jewish Center was being built. It was just a matter of time before he and Father McCormick would be forced out for good. Father McCormick would be off to the west coast, but Peter still hadn’t figured out where he would go, and he had less than six months to come up with a plan. One option was to move on to another rectory, maybe another parochial school, but how likely was it that he would land a job when church facilities were being shut down all over? What was happening here was happening in cities and suburbs all across America. Mass attendance was down and according to Father McCormick, enrollment in Catholic schools was the lowest it had been since Vatican II. The whole religion getting sandbagged on account of those whack jobs calling themselves agents of God. Those scum of the earth were the reason the church had to pay multi-million dollar settlements; the real reason the church property on Trinity Lane had been sold.

Peter imagined there were others like him. Church custodians—
plant managers
as he preferred to call himself—all looking for work in what few remaining rectories there were. Peter swore he wouldn’t trouble Father McCormick with his problems, so on the few occasions when the priest had asked, Peter had assured him that he’d be staying with family upstate. Lying was the least he could do. After all, Father was suffering too. Peter’s blood boiled watching the man who had saved him from a life on the street being so callously tossed aside. Peter was actually thankful Father’s vision was as bad as it was. The seventy-five year old should not have to bear witness to bulldozers pulverizing what remained of his home, his
life
. The chapel and rectory were the final phase of the takeover. Peter wondered if the Holy Spirit would stick around for a while, maybe save a few Jewish souls.

 
BOOK: Murder At The Mikvah
9.89Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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