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Day of Atonement Chapter One
Not the honeymoon Decker had imagined.
Twelve grueling months before he'd rack up another two weeks' vacation time and here he was, alone in a tiny guest bedroom, his long legs cramped from having slept on too small a bed, his back sore from lying on a wafer-thin thing that somebody had mislabeled as a mattress. He'd bunked up in foxholes that had been bigger than this place. Most of the floor space was taken up by the pullout sofa bed. The rest of the furnishings were worn pieces old enough to be antiques, but not good enough to qualify. A scarred wooden night-stand was at his right, the digital clock upon it reading out ten-forty-two. The suitcases had been piled atop an old yellowed pine bureau adorned with teddy-bear appliqués. The sofa pillows had been stuffed into the room's only free corner. On the east wall, two wee windows framed a gray sky.
The honeymoon suite.
Two days ago, he'd danced blisters on his feet, whooping his voice raw, carrying his stepsons around on his shoulders. It had been a wild affair -- the drinking and dancing lasting until midnight. Now his body was paying overtime for his exuberance.
Of course, the undersized sofa didn't help.
He chewed on the ends of his mustache, then pulled the sheet over his head.
They say Jews don't drink much, but they've never seen ultra-Orthodox rabbis at a wedding. The men downed schnapps like water. Decker had thought his father had a large capacity for booze, but Dad was a piker compared to Rav Schulman.
Dad and Mom. Sitting in the corner, wondering what the hell wasflying. Cindy trying to coax Grandma to dance. Rina did get Mom to dance once. Even Mom couldn't turn down the bride. But that one time had been the only time.
Well, at least they came. A big surprise and a step in the right direction. They liked Rina, he sensed that immediately. Rina could charm anyone and she was truly a nice person. But his parents couldn't come out and tell him they liked her. Mom did admit that if he had to marry another Jew, Rina seemed like a decent woman. Very high praise. Then she added that Rina seemed sincere in her beliefs even though they were dead wrong.
Randy had liked Rina, too. Baby Bro liked all beautiful women, but he wasn't what you'd call a picky sort. Decker wished he could have spent some more time with Randy -- shoot the bull about the job -- but he and Rina just had to rush off. Had to make it to Brooklyn before the holiday of Rosh Hashanah started.
What was he doing, honeymooning in Boro Park of all places? He and Rina should have been in Hawaii, making love in the moonlight on the beach. Hell, he would have settled for staying back home on the ranch -- just him and her. Send Sam and Jake off to visit Grandma and Grandpa in Brooklyn for the holidays.
But no, no, no. Rina had to visit her late husband's parents. His luck: to inherit not one but two sets of in-laws.
Decker stretched, his feet falling over the edge of the mattress.
At least her ex-in-laws were nice people.
So happy you joined us for the holidays, they had said. Rosh Hashanah will be a wonderful New Year's with Rina and the boys and you as guests in our home. Thank you so much for allowing us the pleasure of being with you.
But Decker hated looking into their eyes. He could tell what they were thinking.
Why couldn't you be our son, Yitzchak?
He ran his hands through damp ginger hair.
It had to be tough on them. Their only son gone, he the stepfather of their boy's children.
He wished he was back home. Too many ghosts here.
The clock glowed ten-forty-five. He hadn't heard Rina wake up, but he knew she wouldn't dare abandon him. She was probably in the kitchen helping her ex-mother-in-law prepare for the big holiday meal.
His clothes weren't visible. They'd been thrown off in the heat of passion last night, both of them stifling laughter, hoping the flimsy bed could take all the weight.
Afterward, Decker wondered if Rina had made love with her late husband in this very bed. But he had kept his thoughts to himself.
Finding the energy to rise, he immediately tripped on his shoes, stubbed his toe, and cursed silently. He stripped off his pajamas, went over to the bureau and found that Rina had unpacked, his clothes neatly stowed in the first and second drawers. She'd put his Beretta under a pile of undershirts, the clips all the way in the back under his pants. God bless an efficient woman.
He attempted to open a door on the west wall. It came out about halfway before it hit the bed frame. He squeezed himself inside the cell and found a munchkin-size bathroom -- sink, shower, and toilet. The water closet was done in old white tile and reeked of disinfectant, but someone had laid out clean towels. He took a quick lukewarm shower (others had gotten to the hot-water tank before him), his elbows hitting the walls as he soaped up. He had to duck a good foot to get his head under the shower tap.
He dried himself off and dressed, his skin prickly with goosebumps. There was no room to stand and dress with the bed unfolded. He straightened the sheets and pushed the mattress inward until it slid down into the sofa frame, then put the pillows on the couch ... Day of Atonement. Copyright © by Faye Kellerman. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.