Authors: Stuart M. Kaminsky
“Hoover,” said the man, surprised that Abe did not recognize him. “Ira Hoover.”
No bells rang for Lieberman. He did not really want to listen for them. The two women at the next table watched the exchange while they nibbled at a small plate of rugalah. Rose ate slowly.
“Itzak Hoverman,” the man prodded.
“Izzy?” said Lieberman, looking at the man again.
“The one. The only. The same. In the flesh. Only more of it,” said Hoover. “Izzy Hoover.”
“Haven't see you around,” said Lieberman.
“For good reason,” said Hoover taking the seat Eli Towser had recently left. “I've been away from Chicago for more than thirty years. I'm in the front office for the Supersonics. Moved up from a USBL team in Texas about four years ago.”
“How's Seattle?” asked Lieberman.
“Nice. Wet,” said Hoover. “I hear you're a police officer?”
Lieberman nodded, dearly wanting to be alone with his thoughts rather than reminiscing with someone who looked like the greeter at a posh Michigan Avenue men's store. He did not want to see this nearly bald man with a fringe of gray hair and a pink face who had once been Izzy Hoverman, one of the best shooting guards in Chicago. At Marshall High School back in the 1950s, the Commandos Juniors, 5'8” and under, four blacks, six Jews, were the best in the city, probably the best in the country. Abe's brother Maish was three years ahead of Abe, but they got to play together for one season, the best season. Abe, the ball handler, remembered every pass, every assist, every jumper he made that season. At least he thought he remembered. Izzy and Billy “Springfeet” Springfield were the only ones who had gone on to college ball. And Billy, who had suddenly shot up to 6'6”, had even been drafted out of college by the Celtics, but he hadn't made the team.
Abe didn't want to remember. He didn't want to talk basketball or old times at Marshall High.
?” Izzy said. “The gym looked the same. The cheerleaders were leading the same. DÃ©jÃ vu, you know? That Agee kid reminds me of Billy, even looks like him.”
Lieberman nodded and drank some cool coffee.
“You got stuff on your mind,” Izzy observed, standing. “I know how that is. Listen, I got to get back to my booth. My cousins. I don't get back here much. You know how it is. How's Maish?”
“Fine,” said Lieberman, not wanting to go into the recent death of Maish's son.
“Nothing bothers Maish,” Hoover said. “City championship game. No time left. We're down by two and Maish has a pair of free throws. I'll never forget. Chicago Stadium. Maybe ten thousand in the audience. School winning streak in his hands. And calm as you please, Maish sinks 'em both. We all run out, jump all over him. Pick him up. Never cracks a smile.”
“I remember,” said Abe.
“Won't keep you any longer,” said Izzy, reaching into his pocket. “Maybe you can use these.” Izzy handed Lieberman an envelope pulled magically from his inside jacket pocket. He reached out to shake hands and Lieberman shook. “You look like you need a vacation, Abe. You ever get to Seattle, look me up. I mean it.”
And Izzy was gone. Lieberman was alone with his cold coffee. The two women at the next table were gone. A busboy was quickly clearing their table. Lieberman opened the envelope and pulled out four passes behind the Sonics bench for a Bulls-Sonics game next season. Abe looked up for Izzy, but like the ladies at the next table, he and his cousins were gone.
F THERE IS SUCH A
thing as a typical American Catholic church, St. Bartholomew's is not it. St. Bart's priest is Sam “Whiz” Parker, a thirty-eight-year-old African-American, former All-American running back at the University of Illinois and former Green Bay Packer. Father Parker's congregation consisted almost totally of Vietnamese and Koreans who moved slowly into the previously Polish neighborhood in Edgewater when the Poles moved out. St. Bart's had a homeless shelter. Most of the homeless who made their way west from Broadway, north from Devon and east from Western, were white with a few blacks, never an Asian.
Result: A congregation of Catholic Asians with a black priest was running a shelter primarily for white men and women.
The few white parishioners, like Detective William Hanrahan, were there, more or less, by mistake. A murder investigation two years earlier had brought Hanrahan in search of a homeless man and back to the church. The policeman, who had himself been a
magazine All-American football player from Vocational High School, had bad knees that drove him from big-time college ball to a mediocre career at Eureka College and no draft pick.
The two men spoke the same language.
“You know,” said Father Parker, looking across his cluttered desk in his cluttered office, “I can't marry you.”
Hanrahan nodded and patted the hand of Iris Huang who looked nervous. Hanrahan was a little past his fiftieth birthday. So was Iris, but she could easily be mistaken for thirty.
Hanrahan sat back and looked at the familiar walls filled with photographs, mostly football players. Most were signed. There was even one of a young Bill Hanrahan, obtained by Parker when he was a boy. A light, chilly spring rain was still falling outside. Parker, wearing sneakers, a pair of jeans and a white button-down shirt, looked out at the rain and listened as it hit the pebble-covered parking lot next to the church. “Advice, suggestions, Sam,” said Hanrahan. “We've got a problem here.”
Father Parker turned back to the man and woman who were holding hands. “Maybe,” said the priest, rubbing his neck.
“I've been sober for almost two years,” said Hanrahan.
“Bill,” Parker said softly. “It's not your sobriety or lack of it. You've been divorced in a civil court. Even if I wanted to, I'd have to check with the Archdiocese who would have to check with â¦ You can see how it goes. I might even go all the way to the Vatican where some ninety-year-old Italian cardinal will automatically say âno.' Right or wrong, the Church has circled the holy wagons and is drawing lines in Our Savior's blood around the circle. One line clearly reads that you can't cross it on this issue.”
“I'm a Catholic, Sam,” Hanrahan said. “Iris is more than willing to convert if necessary. We don't want a Justice of the Peace. We don't want a Protestant.”
“Best I can give you is an Episcopalian,” said Father Parker. He paused and added, “That's a joke, Bill.”
“Hard to laugh, Father,” Hanrahan said with a sigh.
“My family, my father, has learned to accept William. My uncles, aunts, cousins, and others are more cautious.”
“How about an ex-priest with a Korean wife who heads a Universalist congregation in Des Plaines?” asked Father Parker.
“Another joke?” asked Hanrahan.
“Nope,” said the priest standing up. “Vincent DiPino. Went to the seminary with him. Ordained with him. He dropped out of the church four years ago, got married, runs a computer system update business out of his house, and has a congregation triple mine.”
“A football player?” asked Hanrahan.
“A little high school soccer,” said Father Parker, sitting on the edge of his desk after moving a pile of books and papers. “Can't have everything.”
Hanrahan looked at Iris, who smiled back at him and squeezed his hand.
“The ex-priest would be fine with me,” said Iris softly.
Hanrahan shrugged. He had waited for years for his ex-wife Maureen to return. She had obtained a civil divorce, unrecognized by the Church. He had waited for his sons to forgive him for his drinking, his fights with their mother, his not being around when they grew up. He had kept the small house in the old neighborhood on the other side of Wilson spotless, like an ad on television, in the hope that Maureen would return, not so much that she would see what he had done and return to him but that she would see that he had not fallen completely apart. He had done that even when he was carrying his badge and suffering as an alcoholic.
What had put him firmly on the wagon happened the night he met Iris. He was supposedly watching the front entrance and a window in a high rise on Sheridan. He had sat inside the Black Moon Chinese Restaurant. Iris had waited on him. Hanrahan had spent several hours drinking and watching through a rain not much different from the one now falling, but it had been darker that night and he had missed the closing of the drapes signal from Estralda Valdez that she needed help. By the time Hanrahan noticed the signal, made it across the street, and up to the apartment, Estralda Valdez was a bloody corpse. Lieberman covered for his partner. Hanrahan had stopped drinking and carried his guilt to Sam Parker. He had also joined AA, though at first he had felt little confidence in their beliefs.
How many times? How many guilts had Bill Hanrahan confessed to Sam Parker? And how in the name of the Blessed Mother could Father Parker continue to absolve him and remain his friend?
“Call the ex-priest,” said Hanrahan with resignation, looking at Iris who nodded. “Am I risking excommunication?”
“That one I think I can deal with,” said Parker, burrowing through the clutter for Ã¡ black address book.
Hanrahan's pager suddenly went off. Usually, he turned it off when he entered the church. This time he had been more than a bit nervous. He asked to use the phone, called in to Nestor Briggs on the desk at the Clark Street Station. Nestor reported that the Korean extortionists had been booked, printed, and scowled at. Nestor gave Hanrahan a number to call. Hanrahan made the call. Identified himself, listened, nodded his head, and said nothing.
“Got to get back on the job,” said Hanrahan, checking his watch.
“I'll stay and make the arrangements,” Iris said.
“You sure?” Hanrahan asked standing.
“I am sure,” she said.
“I'll give Miss Huang a ride home,” said Sam Parker, as he found DiPino's phone number in his book. “I've got hospital calls to make.”
Hanrahan gave Iris a chaste kiss, said he would call her later, and said to the priest, “Thanks, Father.”
Father Parker was already dialing the number.
Hanrahan hurried down the aisle of the empty church, stopped, looked up at the stained glass image of Jesus on the cross, rain on me other side of the window running down his face like tears. Hanrahan knelt, crossed himself, and prayed. He used no words and thought none. He simply gave himself over to prayer.
The blue, flat cushions on most of the benches in the main worship hall of Temple Mir Shavot had been ripped by a sharp object. Padding puffed out like gray-white intestines. No windows were broken, but the ark had been opened and three of the four Torahs had been unfurled and torn and thrown toward the congregation seats like sheets of wallpaper. The fourth Torah was gone. The walls were spray-painted in red, hurriedly with no style or graffiti grace and pride.
“Kikes eat our babies,” was dripping down one wall next to, “Jews get out or die.” The other messages were equal in kind and hatred. “Yids will die in the street,” “Soon we will cut off your â¦” Hanrahan stopped reading and looked at Lieberman, who showed no emotion. Lieberman stood in the center aisle of the temple looking at the damage, noting that no windows had been broken, that the vandals had taken care not to be heard. Lieberman absorbed each act of sacrilege and blasphemy.
Hanrahan was sure he himself would be feeling enormous rage if St. Bart's had been desecrated like this. But Hanrahan had learned that his partner's facial expressions and feelings might be quite different.
The other man looking at Lieberman was in his late forties, thin, dressed in a gray suit with no tie on his white shirt. A white yarmulke rested atop his head. Lieberman and Hanrahan wore similar little round black caps, which they had taken from a box that had fallen near the entrance of the chapel. The man in the gray suit was wearing no socks and his shoes were untied. His eyes through his glasses were fixed on Lieberman, watching the detective's eyes, trying to read in them something, anything that would help him make sense of the abomination around him.
“You got the call?” Lieberman said.
“Around ten,” said Rabbi Wass. “No, a few minutes before ten. Mr. Timms called. I think he was crying. Then I got dressed, came over and â¦ this. I tried to reach you, left messages. Sat, prayed â¦ The Torah, the blue velvet Torah, it's missing.”
“Mr. Timms, Albert,” said Rabbi Wass, “was here last night till after ten, cleaning up, and then came back this morning, saw all this, and called me.”
“Where's Mr. Timms?” asked Lieberman.
“In my study,” said the young rabbi who had replaced his father, the Old Rabbi Wass, as leader of Temple Mir Shavot six years ago. “He's not a young man. He has a bad heart.”
“Your study is â¦?” Lieberman began.
“Thank God,” said Wass looking at Hanrahan. “It's untouched. No other room but this was touched.”
“Thank God,” Hanrahan said not sure of what he should say. It was Hanrahan whose fists were clenched in anger as he looked around. Lieberman continued to look, as he always looked, like a sad, old man with gray hair and the face of a beagle.
“You haven't called the police?” asked Lieberman.
“You're the police,” said Wass, holding out his hands. “I called you.”
“I'm a Chicago police officer,” said Lieberman. “The temple is in Skokie now. You call the Skokie police. Let's go back to your study, talk to Mr. Timms, and call a friend of mine who can help. Detective Hanrahan will keep looking around.”
Hanrahan was only a few feet away from an obscenity on the wall in dried blood. As they walked out of the large chapel that had once been the lobby of a bank, Rabbi Wass looked back at the devastation in bewilderment and fear.
“How can we get this cleaned up for services? Who did such a thing? What â¦?” Wass said as they stepped into the hallway near the entrance of the temple. The white prayer talliths were draped evenly over wooden rods next to the box of black yarmulkes on the floor. The rack of rods had been pushed or kicked over against the wall. On Dempster Street outside, cars sloshed through rain and pedestrians with umbrellas made their way quickly down the sidewalk.