Welcome to His Brother’s Keeper, a fictional mystery series set in 2000, in New York. I’ve decided to periodically lend my blog to a friend, Eva Hirschel. Eva doesn’t have a social media presence but she does have a mystery that she wanted to publish serially on-line, so I’m giving her a hand. (If you’re just tuning in now, I suggest that you start at the beginning). Here is Part II, Chapter One. Enjoy!
Just a few clicks and it’s all set in motion. It’s all a matter of finding the right people and learning what makes them tick. Everyone has the button that gets them going—it’s just a matter of finding it. It wasn’t too hard this time. I unraveled his story so quickly I even surprised myself! Now he’s jumping when I say jump, crawling when I say crawl! History repeats itself, as they like to say. Once a crawler, always a crawler, I like to say. And I say, this time history will not repeat itself. This time will be different.
They don’t know yet what is coming. But they will see. They will see that history can be overturned. They will see that we don’t have to accept the past as it is. We can change the past by changing the future. He told me that I live in the past but that’s because he doesn’t understand that it’s all about the future.
Once we crawled like cockroaches across the face of Europe. We were passive, weak. But not anymore. Not anymore. And never again. I come from that same diseased gene pool but I know that we can make our destiny—we don’t have to let it make us.
They say they want peace. Not me. It’s not peace that ensures safety, it’s power. They don’t understand that. They’ve been corrupted by the ideas of western humanism. They say they want justice. I say I want a future. What good is justice if it’s not mine? For too long we have fought other people’s battles, financed other people’s wars and conquests and futures. It’s our turn now. No one will do it for us so we have to do it for ourselves. Just a few more clicks, a few more buttons to push, and I will have them all right where I want them. Right here. Right now.
Being by myself in a hotel room was a guilty pleasure. Even if the hotel room wasn’t anything special, and this one wasn’t, it felt like an indulgence to be alone. There was no one asking me for anything, no one to take care of, no one to interrupt me. Best of all, I didn’t have to clean up after myself, much less anyone else. I could take a shower without having to clear away plastic boats and floating dinosaurs. My single friends’ fantasies were about nights spent with someone else, but mine were about nights alone, when I could watch t.v., or read in bed, falling asleep with the light on. I loved the anonymity of hotel rooms, in which I was surrounded by blank surfaces and items that held no emotional connection or anxious reminders of responsibilities. Albeit only temporarily, hotel rooms were places of reinvention. I could be a high-powered player making multi-million dollar deals, or a cat burglar preparing for a heist. The possibilities were endless.
I stretched out on the bed and clicked away on the remote control, watching the channels change and morph into each other over and over in a desperate loop screaming for attention. There were three hours to go until it was time to meet again with Jack Gelberman, or whoever he was. Three hours to sift through what I knew and still didn’t know, what I wanted to ask and what I needed explained. The pink-faced weather announcer on the television screen gestured excitedly while trying not to drop his props. Behind him, palm trees waved in the wind. The big news was an impending rainstorm. Just my luck, to come down to Florida and miss out on sunny weather. Not that I was here to get a tan, but a little Florida sunshine would be nice. I kept on flipping, past Barney, past the Home Shopping Network’s display of cubic zirconium, past a demonstration on potato peeling techniques. Re-runs of Starsky and Hutch momentarily caught my interest, but I was distracted by a loud burst of thunder and a sudden darkening of the sky outside.
I got up and pulled back the opaque curtain. The balmy sky had transformed into a thick, murky shade of gray. Fat raindrops spattered down on the asphalt of the parking lot one floor down, and onto the windshield of the cars parked below. One car unexpectedly caught my eye. Instead of being parked parallel to the other cars in the lot, it was parked perpendicular, greedily taking up several spots. It was also strange that despite the rain, the driver’s window was open. And the driver, a man with a dark beard and what looked like a black kippah on a mostly bald head, was staring up at me.
Quickly, I moved back from the window, holding the curtain open. I slid carefully, around to the other side of the curtain, and peered out. He was still staring up at my window. Although it was probably a rental car, I committed the license plate to memory. It was too much of a coincidence that a man in a kippah would be parked outside my motel, staring in the direction of my room. The driver was there for a reason, and the reason was me. He was doing surveillance, and I was his target. I let the curtain drop, and jumped in the bed, covering myself with the blankets. The room suddenly felt cold, and I realized I was shivering.
“Yeah, I’m okay, really,” I reassured Simon. “Don’t worry. I’m in sunny Florida, everything’s cool.” I didn’t want to tell him about the man in the parking lot, but he knew me too well.
“Something’s wrong, Abby. I know you don’t want to worry me, but I can tell.”
“Everything’s fine. Tell me about Hannah.”
I heard Simon take a deep sigh. “I’m still uncomfortable about this.”
“Hey, relax,” I answered, trying to sound lighthearted. “Don’t be such a worrier.”
“Don’t you be such a warrior.”
“Oh come on, what is this, you have to protect me?”
“Don’t go flexing your feminist muscles at me, okay?”
“Simon, I’m an adult. Enough already.”
“An adult who doesn’t always use common sense.”
“Look, I’m meeting with Gelberman tonight at five. He’s going to fill in a lot of the blanks, and then that will be that. It’ll be a wrap. Tomorrow morning I’ll be on my way home, and this whole thing will be over.”
“I hope so.”
I sat down on the edge of the bed. “No fever, no cold?”
“Nah. She has a rash on her stomach, nothing serious.”
Breathe in, breathe out, I told myself. Just like Lamaze. Be calm. “What!!” I screamed. “A rash on her stomach! What kind of rash? Raised dots with a white center?”
I could hear Simon getting nervous. “No. Maybe. I don’t know. It was just a little rash. You know Hannah and her dry skin. She gets rashes all the time.”
Keep breathing, I told myself again. Never mind that there’s some unidentified stranger in the parking lot stalking me, and that Hannah is probably coming down with chicken pox. Never mind. Everything is fine. Keep breathing. Even if you were there, there’s nothing you could do to stop Hannah from getting chicken pox. Or Caleb either, for that matter. Of course, if you were there and not here, there wouldn’t be someone watching you from the parking lot. You chose to not get them vaccinated, so what do you expect? If you had, they wouldn’t be getting chicken pox now, but there would still be someone in the parking lot watching you.
“You still there?” Simon asked tentatively. “What’s wrong?”
“What’s wrong is that it sounds like chicken pox!” I screamed. “Didn’t you have a clue? I told you it was going around her class.”
“Honestly, I didn’t think about it.”
“Didn’t they get vaccinated?”
“No. I can’t believe you don’t remember. Dr. Martin wasn’t convinced at first that the vaccination was a good idea, and we decided to wait, and then at their last checkup he said the results were more conclusive now and he was recommending the vaccine, but you wanted to think about it more and talk to Emma, and then she was busy, and I said we should just do it, and you said no, we’d talk to Emma next time we saw her, and I said –”
“So it’s my fault?”
“No, I’m just saying–”
“Oh, give me a break, Abby. Kids get chicken pox. Just come home quickly, okay?”
Yeah, I thought to myself. Come home quickly to take care of children with chicken pox, so that Simon wouldn’t be too inconvenienced. But I caught myself , and realized that that wasn’t fair. “Okay, I’ll be careful, and I’ll be home in the morning. But if the rash is still there, don’t send her to school tomorrow.”
“Got it,” Simon said in assent. “Call me tonight, before you go to bed, yeah?”
“Yeah, sure,” I said.
“Me too,” I said, and hung up.
Then it was time to deal with the man outside. I crept over to the window on my tiptoes, as if he could hear me. It made no sense, but it made me feel better. Opening the curtain a crack, I peered out. There was no man in a white car watching my window. The place where his car had been was empty.
As quickly as I could, I shoved my belongings back into my bag. I grabbed my laptop, my purse, and my overnight bag, and started to open the door. Then I paused, went back to the window, and looked as far as I could in every direction. Nothing. Taking my chances, I opened the door and left.
[To be continued…]