Read Reckless Endangerment Online

Authors: Robert K. Tanenbaum

Tags: #Ciampi; Marlene (Fictitious character), #Terrorists, #Palestinian Arabs, #Mystery & Detective, #Karp; Butch (Fictitious character), #Legal, #Fiction, #Thrillers, #General, #Jews; American

Reckless Endangerment

BOOK: Reckless Endangerment
5.42Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Reckless Endangerment

Robert K. Tanenbaum

To the ones I love,
Patti, Rachael, Roger, and Billy
























Again, and yet again, all praise belongs to Michael Gruber, whose genius and scholarship flows throughout and who is primarily and solely responsible for the excellence of this manuscript and whose contribution cannot be overstated.

A special thanks to Bob Diforio for his outstanding representation and guidance.


e thought he would get more pleasure from killing the Jews, not that he was actually
it for pleasure, no, it was a necessary act, a political act, he knew that, still … he had expected to feel something more. It had been too much like killing chickens in the street outside the shanty in Gaza. Mahmoud seemed much more excited, dancing around the little establishment on the tips of his toes and waving his knife, although he hadn’t used it all that much when the Jews were alive. Ali had not come into the shop at all, which was correct, because his post was to stand lookout in the doorway.

“We should write a slogan,” said Mahmoud. “
should write one. Death to the Jews! Write it in the blood!”

“It is difficult to write in blood,” said Yussuf chidingly, “and also incorrect.” (He used the Arabic phrase
alil el adab,
which means shockingly indecent.) “Only sex criminals write in blood. I will write in marker.”

He drew a large green Magic Marker out of the side pocket of his field jacket, and wrote the graceful Arabic letters on the mirror that ran the length of the shop, right above the corpses. Then he looked down at them. The woman was lying across her husband’s chest, facedown. The back of her tan raincoat was dark, brown-red with blood, as was her hair, which had been white and done up in a neat bun. The man’s face was covered with blood too, whether his own or his wife’s Yussuf was not sure. The man’s thick gold-rimmed spectacles were jammed askew up on his forehead, as if he had paused in reading to rub his eyes.

“What have you written?” asked Mahmoud. Of the three of them, Yussuf was the only one who could write more than a few simple words and his name. This was why he had been chosen leader.

“I wrote, ‘Death to Israel,’ here, and ‘Free Palestine’ here, and I signed with the initials of the movement here. Now we must leave.”

They moved toward the door, avoiding the spreading pool of blood and the tumble of bagels that had spilled out of the two large paper bags the man had been carrying when they struck. As they passed the cash register at the front of the shop, Mahmoud leaned over and rang the drawer open. The bell seemed unnaturally loud, and Yussuf started.

“What are you doing?”

“It is empty,” said Mahmoud. “Where is their money?”

“Idiot! They have not yet opened for business. They keep the money in a little bag. They do not leave it overnight.”

Mahmoud looked over at the still bodies. “Why don’t we search for it, then?”

Ya salem!
Because we are not thieves. We are soldiers.”

“But it is permitted to take from the enemy what we need,” Mahmoud objected. “Look! Cigarettes! I will take the Jew’s cigarettes.” He reached over the counter to the vertical cigarette racks and began to stuff packages of Salems and Marlboros into the flap pockets of his field jacket.

Yussuf grabbed his arm roughly and yanked him away. Packs of cigarettes spilled from the rack and scattered on the floor. He pointed at his new wristwatch and said angrily, “We must be on our train in three minutes. Do you want us to be caught at the very beginning of our campaign?”

With that, Yussuf left the store. The hulking Ali followed him, and after a moment so did Mahmoud. It was just past seven a.m. on a Sunday, and Fourteenth Street was nearly deserted. They walked swiftly, not running, but at a good pace eastward, where they entered the Canarsie line BMT subway and took the train back to Brooklyn.

Seven minutes later, a blue-and-white radio-patrol car of the NYPD pulled up in front of the murder scene, Abe’s Elite Appetizing. Two officers, a man and woman, climbed out and confronted the two frightened NYU students who, in search of an early morning toasted bagel with cream cheese, had discovered the blood-covered bodies within. The female officer, a stocky blonde named Sherry Koota, pulled out her pad and took down the students’ personal data and what they had to say about the crime, which was not much. They had come in, seen it, and immediately called 911 from the pay phone in the shop. Koota’s partner, Patrolman Edwin Roscoe, had meanwhile entered the shop, gun in hand. He gave the bodies a wide berth and checked behind the glass-fronted cooler display and the short serving counter, and then went through a narrow hallway, checking the storage closet, the toilet, and the rear entrance, which was locked from the inside with a heavy bar, and alarmed. Then he went back to the shop proper, holstering his pistol as he went.

By this time Koota was kneeling over the two victims, peering at the woman’s head.

“Don’t touch nothing, Koota,” said Roscoe, who, with three years on the force, was the senior of the two, and had been made painfully aware that the only duty of the so-called “first officer” at a murder scene was to take the names of witnesses and secure the area from any disturbance, especially from those far too common disturbances caused by first officers.

“I’m not,” said Koota, “but look at this.”

Roscoe knelt too, being careful not to tread in the congealing pool of blood.

“You see that strand of her hair, over the ear, the bloody one?” Koota asked, pointing. “Just watch it for a second.”

Roscoe did. He said, “It’s moving! Holy shit, she’s alive!”

“She’s dead,” said Koota confidently. “The guy under her,

Detective Sergeant James L. Raney, working homicide out of Midtown South, carefully copied the squiggles on the mirror in Abe’s Elite Appetizing into his notebook. The crime-scene unit people had taken any number of photographs of the interior of the shop and the bodies (now departed, one to the morgue and the other to nearby Beth Israel Hospital) and the bloodstains, but Raney was a careful detective and liked to have the relevant material on his actual person during the course of a case.

He put the notebook away and regarded himself frankly in the dusty brown-speckled glass. Raney was in his mid-thirties, young for a detective sergeant, with a map-o’-Ireland face, blue-eyed model. The eyes were cop eyes, although he had managed to avoid the cop gut. A good dresser too, Raney. His blue suit came from Hickey-Freeman; his shoes, which were highly polished, were Florsheim Imperials. He didn’t take bribes, but he didn’t, like many cops, have a string of ex-wives and kids to support, either. Beau James was one of his three departmental nicknames. The second, which adverted to an incident some years previously, in which he had killed four armed robbers in fifteen seconds by shooting them each through the head, was Pistol Jim, although not to his face.

Raney wandered over to where the head of the crime-scene unit was gathering up his equipment.

“Do any good?” he asked.

“Oh, yeah,” said the man. “We got an actual bloody thumb print on the cash drawer there. Some sneaker prints in the blood. You’re looking for a pair, by the way Two different prints. You catch these fuckers, they’re gonna go down for it.” He looked around the little shop and frowned. “Fuckin’ shame, right? Looked like a couple of decent people. The guy gonna make it?”

Raney shrugged. “White’s over at Beth Israel finding out. Maybe he’ll come to and say something. Funny thing about that thumb print—the money was in a zip bag in the vic’s pocket, the woman. They couldn’t have got away with anything but some smokes.”

The CSU man grunted, no longer surprised by any funny things to do with murders.

After that Raney went outside and chatted with Roscoe and Koota and their sergeant, spread some compliments around, and arranged for a local canvass, to see if anyone knew why someone would want to murder Abe and Reva Shilkes, aside from the obvious thing, a robbery gone sour. There was a daughter too; he would have to talk to her as well. He went back into the shop and used the pay phone for twenty minutes and then came out to the sidewalk, paced for a while, and scrounged a
from the front seat of the CSU van. The sports pages were of little interest. Raney followed only baseball and basketball. It was now the baseball season and, a month in, it was perfectly apparent that neither the Yankees nor the Mets had the remotest chance of a pennant in 1981. Raney had been born in 1949, and for the first twenty years of his life the Yanks had won the pennant fourteen times. This had shaped his consciousness of the way things ought to be and, like many a New Yorker, he regarded the recent trend as a prime symbol of the city’s decline. Much of the news section was devoted to the aftermath of the assassination attempt on President Reagan. There, at least, they had the guy. He snorted, folded the paper, and tossed it back on the van’s seat.

Raney hated this case already. It was, first of all, a mystery, which is what NYPD detectives call a murder when the murderer is not readily apparent, in contrast to a grounder, when they find the guy weeping in the front room and the wife and the ball bat and the blood are to be found in the bedroom. It was not that he feared that they would fail to find the murderers. The crime scene had convinced him that they were not dealing here with Dr. Moriarty, the Napoleon of Crime, but with a couple of assholes, and by and large, assholes were easy to find and catch. It was the other stuff that irritated him: the victims were Jewish, and while Raney was no linguist, the scrawls on the mirror looked like Arabic writing to him. That stank. The only thing worse than a mystery was a mystery with ethnic politics smeared over it.

A dark brown Plymouth Fury drove up to the curb, and Detective Second Grade Alonso White got out. This person, whose skin was the color of damp coffee grounds, was about a third larger than Raney and not nearly as well dressed. He was wearing a leather hip-length car coat, which he had purchased, along with the rest of his clothes (gray slacks, black rubber-soled shoes, a black-checked shirt and a knitted tie, with the wrong end sliding over his belt buckle) in one of the cheap men’s shops to be found on Sixth Avenue in the Forties. He had two ex-wives and three children. Raney liked him well enough, for, although he had a mild case of the racism nearly universal among his caste and class, he also held that carrying the tin made you, on the job at least, an honorary Irishman. He also sort of liked the man’s habit of extending a hand that looked like a bouquet of knockwursts, grinning gaudily, and saying, “Hi, I’m White.”

BOOK: Reckless Endangerment
5.42Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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