Lieberman's Choice

Lieberman's Choice

by Stuart M. Kaminsky

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"Kaminsky gets his details exactly right....Tightly plotted...The best mysteries work on multiple levels, and this one is no exception."
Detective Sergeant Abe Lieberman is about to wake up to every policeman's nightmare—an out-of-control colleague hell-bent on revenge. After gunning down his wife and her lover, a fellow cop, Bernie Shepard…  See more details below


"Kaminsky gets his details exactly right....Tightly plotted...The best mysteries work on multiple levels, and this one is no exception."
Detective Sergeant Abe Lieberman is about to wake up to every policeman's nightmare—an out-of-control colleague hell-bent on revenge. After gunning down his wife and her lover, a fellow cop, Bernie Shepard has retreated to a makeshift bunker atop his high-rise apartment buliding, armed with a high-powered rifle and enough explosives to destroy a neighborhood. Holding his former comrades Lieberman and Bill Hanrahan desperately at bay, he issues his single demand: a confrontation with police captain Alan Kearney—or else, widespread slaughter. Either way, Leiberman knows, it's a choice that can only end in disaster.

Editorial Reviews

Wes Lukowsky
Author Kaminsky is an Edgar Award winner and currently has three series heroes: Toby Peters, Inspector Rostnikov, and Abe Lieberman. The last may be his most fully realized. He's an aging Jewish Chicago cop who's comfortable and at ease on the street but troubled by his domestic life. He can handle the perpetrators but is puzzled by the paths that end in violence. The case here involves a cop who kills his wife and her lover and then barricades himself atop an apartment building. Political expediency clashes repeatedly with prudence as Abe struggles with the situation. Meanwhile, Abe has to contend with his daughter's troubled marriage, his partner's battle with alcohol, and a born-again wife beater. Each issue is a branch of the same tree, and Abe longs to understand the root of the problem. A thought-provoking novel with implications far beyond the usual genre thriller.

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Publisher: Road
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Abe Lieberman Mysteries , #2
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Lieberman's Choice

An Abe Lieberman Mystery

By Stuart M. Kaminsky


Copyright © 1993 Stuart Kaminsky
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4804-0021-4


The midnight waves scratched silver fingers along the narrow beach at the end of the street. Through the open window of his car, Bernie Shepard heard the waves and the rush of traffic half a block behind him on Sheridan Road. He parked next to a fire hydrant, picked up his shotgun, opened the car door, and stepped into the night. The dog leaped out after him, silent except for the pad of his paws on the street.

It was mid-September. The moon was full and the waves hitting the Chicago shore of Lake Michigan were sluggish and cold. And in spite of their moonlit silver caps, dirty. No more than a month ago, at the end of this street, Shepard had watched the uneatable coho salmon flop around, mating, dying just off the shore.

Shepard and the dog were alone.

Only the drunk and drugged, only the incautious homeless, only those whose late night shifts require it walked the streets of low rises and two-flats on Fargo and the other nearby streets that ran a single block from Sheridan to the lake. These were streets that twenty years ago had been respectable, thirty years ago had been choice, and forty years ago had been elite.

Now the old people who lived here went to bed early and double-locked their doors. The professionals who found the neighborhood a bargain treated their lives like a movie, believing and disbelieving the danger at the same time.

Shepard and the dog crossed the street to the Shoreham Towers. The Towers stood fifteen stories high. There was nothing in sight for five blocks in any direction that rose higher in the cloudless sky than this 1930s rectangle of red brick and white ledges.

Shepard opened the outer door of Shoreham Towers and entered. He made no attempt to hide the weapon in his hand. Fifteen years ago, the lobby of the Shoreham had a carpet and chairs. They were long gone. The chairs had been stolen, the carpet taken up by management before it too was taken.

The lobby smelled of disinfectant and the memory of that damp carpet. On the walls were faded prints—pink flowers and ornate tropical birds—protected by dusty glass.

He moved to the inner lobby door, opened it with a key, and stepped in. The inner lobby still had a few chairs, a trio of artificial plants that looked artificial, and an overhead light fixture with eight teardrop bulbs, one of which flickered on and off as the man and dog moved into the open elevator.

The dog sat and watched as the man pushed a button and the elevator doors closed. The elevator lurched, still half asleep, sluggishly upward 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10. The elevator stopped with a grunt of steel and the doors opened.

Shepard, dog behind him, headed down the corridor of the tenth floor and stopped in front of an apartment. He listened. There was a faint sound of voices behind the door. Shepard opened the door slowly, very slowly with a key and stepped into the darkness touched by the moonlight through the windows and a thin slice of yellow light coming from the partly open door of the bedroom in front of him. The dog entered and watched Shepard carefully close the door to the apartment.

The voices were clearer now, a man and a woman. Shepard moved silently to the bedroom door and stood listening.

"... to be safe," the woman said.

Shepard motioned to the dog, who understood, pushed the bedroom door open with a paw, and trotted in silently.

"I checked. He's on an all-night stakeout on the South Side. There's no way ..."

The man stopped suddenly, midsentence. He had seen the dog.

Shepard kicked open the bedroom door and raised the shotgun. He had heard others tell the tale, claiming moments like this were gauzy dreams, slow motion. But he sensed none of this.

Andy Beeton was throwing off the blanket. He was naked. He reached for a gun in a holster draped over a chair near the bed. Shepard fired. The blast sprayed Beeton with red-black dots against his pale skin and spun his head to the right, taking his left eye. He was dead before he slumped against the night table, tipping the table lamp to the floor and bringing down the nearby chair and holster with his outstretched hand.

Somewhere behind Shepard, the dog made a sound, not quite a whimper, maybe even a yawn.

Shepard turned to the woman, who had sat up, not bothering to cover her breasts. She was small and wide-eyed. Her nipples were dark and pointing at him. Her long hair tumbled over one eye. Her head shook "no" slowly and her mouth formed the word no as Shepard fired and turned away, not wanting to see what the blast did to her. But as he took a step back to the door, she made a sound, an almost cooing sound. He turned to see what he did not want to see and knew that the sound was only a memory and that Olivia was dead.

There was no more to look at or do here. He reloaded the shotgun and snapped his fingers. The dog looked from him to the bed and back again before obeying the sound and moving into the darkened living room.

Before Shepard and the dog had crossed the living room, they could hear voices in the corridor.

"What happened?"

"What was that?"

"Where did it come from? I think it was ..."

"I'm calling the police."

"Jerry, mind your own business."

"I'm calling the police, Flo. You hear what I'm saying here? Someone could be for Chrissake dead or ..."

Shepard stepped through the apartment door and into the corridor. The dog trotted in front of him. He reached back and closed the door.

"Mr. Shepard, what ha ...?"

The speaker was a short, fat man with gray hair that had gone electric wild in his sleep. He was wearing a gray robe. He had stopped speaking when he looked first at Shepard's face and then at the gun at Shepard's side.

There were two other men and two other women in the hallway, all of them over sixty. Shepard and the dog strode toward the open elevator door, the people moving silently to the side, out of his way.

As Shepard and the dog entered the elevator, an apartment door opened and two men, both in their thirties, both a bit drunk, stepped out.

"What the hell's goin' on?" asked one of the men.

Shepard and the dog faced forward. As the doors closed one of the drunken men, the bigger of the two, looked at Shepard and the shotgun in his hand, took a step toward him, and then thought better of it. The elevator doors closed and Bernie Shepard could hear.

"What the fuck is goin' on out here?"

As the elevator lurched upward, the voices below faded in the distance and the grind of weary gears.

"I'm calling the cops."

"Jerry, mind your own business."

When the elevator reached the top, the fifteenth floor, Shepard and the dog stepped out into a silent corridor of locked apartments. Shepard moved to a door marked STAIRWAY, pushed it open so the dog could step in ahead of him, and followed the animal into the dim-bulbed shadows.

Shepard did not think, did not allow himself to think. Images behind him in the apartment screamed for attention. He ignored them and climbed the stairs, listening to his footsteps clang and echo and howl back from fifteen stories below. At the top of the stairwell was a heavy metal door. Shepard put down his gun and pushed the door open. Warm air rushed in.

Picking up the gun, Shepard stepped out onto the roof of the Shoreham Towers, commanded an unbidden image to go away, leaned the gun against the wall, and closed the door. A heavy metal bar rested against the wall next to where he had placed the gun. While the dog padded around the pebble-covered roof, Shepard, straining, slowly wedged the bar against the door. He tested it, found it firm, and retrieved his gun. Again he was aware of the sound of the waves, the rush of traffic. Nothing outside of the Shoreham Towers had changed in the last five minutes.

An empty water tower, its once orange body covered with graffiti, its four girderlike legs acned with rust, sat in the middle of the roof. Shepard moved toward the tower. Beneath it was a clearing of almost ten feet by ten feet surrounded by concrete blocks that Shepard had brought up one at a time, in the dead of night, over the past six weeks. In one corner of the minifortress was a formidable cache of weapons. Next to the weapons was a chest containing food. Atop the chest was a jug of water. Shepard stepped through a narrow passage between the blocks and checked the food, water, weapons, and a first-aid kit. He pulled out a blanket and a two-way radio, laid the radio on the blanket, and adjusted a rolled-up sleeping bag so that it rested against the blocks.

Satisfied, Shepard stepped back through the passage between the blocks and walked to the corner of the roof.

The dog came to his side, sat, and waited.

There would be no sirens. They would come silently, and if he wished, he could look over the edge of the tower down to the street to watch them come. They would ask questions, find the bodies, wait for orders, and gradually figure out where he was. It would take time. Half an hour. An hour. Time.

To the south, toward downtown, he could see the snake of car lights along Lake Shore Drive. The distant high rises along the drive were darkened but not fully asleep. Well beyond them he could see the downtown peaks, even the Sears Tower. Then Shepard looked toward the lake and saw darkness except for a dot of light that must have been a boat. To the north just a few blocks away, though it was too dark to see it, was the cemetery that divided Evanston and Chicago at the lakeshore. To the west lay the city, sleepily alight even at this hour.

Shoreham Towers was in East Rogers Park, not a melting pot, but a scared puzzle of Haitians, Jamaicans, poor Southern whites, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Indians, Pakistanis, recent Russians. Fifteen blocks to the west was West Rogers Park, small homes, threatened, mostly Jews with odd pockets of Chinese and slightly more affluent Russians.

Shepard turned from the edge of the roof. The odds were good, he knew, that they would send Lieberman. And behind him would come Kearney. It was Kearney's district now. But now lasted only an instant.

Shepard went back into his concrete-block stockade with the dog behind him, leaned his back against his rolled-up sleeping bag, and closed his eyes.


When the call came a little after two in the morning, it did not wake Abraham Lieberman, nor did it awaken his wife, Bess, but for different reasons.

Bess had learned three decades earlier to sleep with thirty-six-decibel ear plugs to block out the snoring of her husband. Each year, Abe snored less, not because the problem had passed but because he slept less.

On this early morning, wearing his favorite green robe with hardly a bit of nap remaining on its threadbare surface, Abe sat in the kitchen with the door closed doing the New York Times crossword puzzle and drinking an iced mixture of diet cola and coffee. He considered shaving.

There were four prevailing opinions about the appearance of Abraham Lieberman. Bess thought he looked like Harry James. The Alter Cockers, the regulars at his brother Maish's deli on Devon, after much and continuing debate led by Syd Levan, thought he looked like a dyspeptic dachshund, while at the Clark Street Station out of which Lieberman worked, he was accepted as the Rabbi, which only his partner called him, or the Bloodhound, a title settled upon him by a well-educated car thief more than a dozen years ago not because of any particular tenacity on Lieberman's part but because of the policeman's sober face and lean, round-shouldered body.

Lieberman was well aware that he was not an imposing figure at five seven and hovering around 145 pounds. He looked, even to himself, a good five years older than his sixty years. Bess thought his best features were his curly gray hair and his little white mustache. Lieberman could never see anything in his mirror except his own long-dead father in disguise.

Bess was five years younger than Abe. On a bad day she looked fifteen years younger. On a good day she looked like his daughter. She was no beauty, but she was a lady. The daughter of a South Side butcher, she carried herself like Katharine Hepburn. The Alter Cockers admitted without reservation that Bess had "class."

Over the past few years it was always something different that seemed to wake Lieberman up each morning between four and five. Usually it was a sound, a real or imagined movement by Bess, his own snoring, an inner clock that had gone wrong just after his fifty-seventh birthday, or a memory. This morning it was different, a dream.

Lieberman was not a dreamer. He knew that everyone dreamed, but he was not usually moved by his dreams nor did he particularly remember them, but this one had been different.

A face had loomed before him suddenly. A round white face with sunken dark eyes, a face not attached to a body. The mouth of the face had opened to reveal red gums and no teeth. The tongue was white and moving, and a word was whispered and then another. "They will die."

He knew the face. The face was telling the truth, but the face was a balloon. If he could wake up, unlock the night table drawer with the key around his neck, get out his gun, and fire at the balloon, it would burst. He knew it would splatter blood on Bess, on him, on the new flowered comforter, but if he didn't destroy this balloon, someone would die.

Abe had forced himself awake with a grunt and sat up in bed.

He knew the face. Frankie Kraylaw. It was a face, a smiling, innocent face that had troubled him from time to time more than once over the last four months during his waking hours. Now it was intruding on his dreams.

Lieberman had listened to Bess's even breathing and then had gotten out of bed. He had tiptoed out of the room and retrieved his book of New York Times Sunday crossword puzzles, an early birthday gift to himself. He would be sixty-one at the end of the month, the twenty-ninth. The prospect did not please him.

The puzzle Lieberman found himself working on was unusually difficult or he was unusually tired. He wasn't getting it. What he was getting was a stiff neck from sitting in the same position at the kitchen table. Dawn and a hot shower would help.

Above him he heard Lisa's bed creak. If she walked across the floor, he would leave his puzzle, leave his drink, and pad as quickly as he could to the bathroom. He was not ready for another session with his daughter, who had left her husband and moved back into her parents' house on Birchwood Street in West Rogers Park with her two children, Barry and Melisa. Lisa was an endless vacillation between uncertainty and determination. If Lieberman even suggested that her husband, Todd Cresswell, was not a self-serving monster, she would give him a Talmud-length catalog of terrible deeds, none of which struck Lieberman as particularly terrible. If he, however, said something that might be construed as critical of Todd, she would point out her father's own imperfections, a remarkable talent she had developed at an early age.

It was sometimes best to avoid Lisa. This was certainly one of those times. When he heard her footsteps above him, he got up quickly, dumped the remains of his drink down the drain, leaving the glass in the sink, and took a step toward the door, puzzle page and pen at the ready, bathroom only eight feet away promising hot water and privacy.

That was when the phone rang.

Lieberman picked it up before it could ring a second time.

"Yes," he said.

"Abe, it's me. You awake?"

Hanrahan sounded sober and serious.

"I'm awake, Bill."

"You know the Shoreham Towers?"

"On Fargo, just off Sheridan. I think Bess has a cousin who lives there."

Lisa was definitely on the way down the stairs. He could hear the wooden steps creaking. Escape was no longer possible.

"Bernie Shepard lives here too. Looks like about an hour ago he came home, found his wife in bed with Andy Beeton, and blew them both to hell and back."

Lieberman said nothing.

He did not believe in prophetic dreams. He didn't disbelieve either. He would wait till he had gathered more evidence, and if the evidence did not come, he could live with the mystery. Less than an hour ago he had dreamed of Frankie Kraylaw, a man who had threatened to kill his wife. Perhaps he had dreamed it at the same moment Bernie Shepard had ...

"Abe, you there?"

"I'm here, Bill. Kearney know?"

"No, you're the first to hear the pleasant tidings. Congratulations."

"I'll tell Nestor to find Kearney," said Lieberman. "I'll be there in twenty minutes." He hung up.


Excerpted from Lieberman's Choice by Stuart M. Kaminsky. Copyright © 1993 Stuart Kaminsky. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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