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WHEN GREGOR DEMARKIAN WAS very young, his mother told him stories about Armenia. Her Armenia wasn't the historical Armenia, because she'd never seen that. She had been born in Alexandria and come to the United States before she was twelve. It was Gregor's grandmother who had been in Yerevan that November of 1915 when the Turks had come. Blood everywhere, horses everywhere, a million and a half dead in less than a year: the stories had come pouring out into the dark of Gregor's room every night when his mother came to put him to bed. Even now, after more than forty years, he could smell the stink of dying. He thought his grandmother must have been a truly great storyteller. Either that, or his mother had had a genius for imagination. Whichever it was, he found himself—at the age of fifty-five, after a bachelor's degree at Penn and a master's at Harvard and a twenty-year stint in the FBI—firmly anchored in the agony of a country he had never seen.
Gregor had been four years old the first time he had heard about the New Armenia—four years old and sitting in this very church, in the second pew from the front on the right—and he remembered that even then he'd thought the idea made no sense. They wouldn't march back to Asia Minor. They wouldn't reclaim their land from whoever had it now. They would simply stay in America and build a Real Armenian Culture, distinct but not separate from the Armenian culture around them. How they were supposed to do this, no one knew—especially because the children were having none of it. Still, it inspired them. There would be a Great Cause and a Great Effort, complete with Virtuous Sacrifices. Whatever else was going to happen to them, they weren't going to get rich.
And now, of course, they had.
Gregor put his hands up to his eyes and rubbed. The liturgy was nearly over, and the church was full of incense. As far as Gregor knew, the peculiar scent of that incense was used only in Armenian Christian churches. He had never encountered it anywhere else. Now he wondered if it was contributing to his feeling of incipient schizophrenia. The smell was right. The words of the service were just what they had been for more than 1,200 years. Even the little priest was right, standing in the center door of the iconostasis, dressed in blue and gold and carrying a great golden cross on a long shaft. It was everything else that was wrong.
He didn't know what he'd expected. He'd left this small ethnic neighborhood in Philadelphia just after he graduated from Penn. In the thirty-four years since, he had been back exactly twice—once for his wedding, right after his two-year hitch in the army; once about five years after that, in 1962, to see his mother buried from Holy Trinity Church. The years between had been full of changes, for himself and everyone else. He had no right to be disoriented by a Holy Trinity that was not just what it had been when he left.
On the other hand, it was entirely possible that it wasn't the fact that things had changed that was bothering him, but the way they had changed. When he had first decided to come back to this neighborhood—to come home—he'd half-expected to find nothing to come back to. He'd pressed on simply because he'd had nothing else to do. Elizabeth was dead, fading away finally after years of terror and futility, anger and pain. His job was gone. He'd taken a leave for the last year of Elizabeth's illness, and when she'd died he'd had neither the energy nor the inclination to go back to work. Then he'd woken up one morning to find himself in a nearly empty apartment in a high-rise off the Beltway, with no idea what day it was or what he was going to do with the day now that he had it, and it began to occur to him that he had to get going again.
He'd been ready to find Cavanaugh Street changed into an Hispanic neighborhood. He'd been prepared to accept it as a battleground for teenage gangs, a strip for prostitutes, a drug bazaar, a burned-out hulk. He'd steeled himself against just about anything, except the sight of Lida Kazanjian Arkmanian in a three-quarter-length chinchilla coat.
The congregation had begun to go up to Communion, making two lines in the outside aisles. The little priest—that would be Father Tibor, the one who had called him—was standing in front of the iconostasis again, holding a large gold cup and a small gold spoon with a handle like an elongated letter opener. As Gregor watched, a boy of no more than three stepped up, closed his eyes, and opened his mouth.
The line reached his pew. If he was going to receive, he would have to go now. Lida slipped out of the pew in front of him and turned, nodding her head vigorously. Gregor hesitated and then shook a negative.
The last Armenian liturgy he had attended had been Elizabeth's funeral. It had been the last he'd intended to attend. He'd only come here today out of some kind of whim, the way he'd come back to Cavanaugh Street.
The people who had received Communion were leaving by the center aisle. They were moving quickly, in a hurry to get to the church steps and the permissible zone of conversation. One or two of them looked him over as they passed. Many more looked back at him when they thought they were safely beyond his field of vision. His scalp was beginning to tingle. God only knew what kind of stories had been floating around this neighborhood since he'd come back.
He spied a gap in the stream of people and felt a little better. At least he was going to be able to get out. He wedged himself between a tiny grandmother in archaic black and a boy in Ralph Lauren Polo and headed for the vestibule.
Going toward the door, he began to wonder what would happen if he did something "really radical," as his favorite niece would say—if he started singing Bob Dylan songs in his deep baritone voice, or talking in Armenian.
Actually, Gregor thought a little later, climbing the stairs to the second floor and Father Tibor's office, what was really madness was his state of mind. For the two years of Elizabeth's last crisis and the two more that followed her death, he had had absolutely no interest in the work that had taken up most of his life. That had begun to change. Maybe it was because he was settled, with a real apartment and a real address. Maybe it was just a matter of time, and he was getting bored. Whatever the reason, he was feeling distinctly itchy—and in his itchiness, he was beginning to do some very strange things.
Now he did something that wasn't strange at all. He poked his head through the door of the big room where he had once attended Sunday school. It had been divided up by slick new baseboard partitions, each hung with a green chalkboard and decorated with construction paper cutouts of the dove of peace. Gregor backed into the hall again. The older he got, the more depressed the world made him. The big things didn't bother him so much. Crime and drugs, war and brutality—he'd read enough history to know all that had happened before and would probably happen again to whatever civilization replaced this one. It was the little things that made him crazy. When he'd been at Sunday school here, the room had been decorated with icons and the words on the blackboard had been in Armenian. What was in there now could just as easily have been part of a Methodist Church in Pederucah, Tennessee.
Gregor heard a sound on the stairs and looked into the well. The little priest was there, hurrying, the tattered hem of his day robe catching on the stair runner every few feet. Gregor made a mental note. He'd known from the sound of the voice on the phone that Father Tibor was an immigrant. The day robes told him Father Tibor was an immigrant from a Communist country. It was only in places where the Church was suppressed that the clergy still felt the need for religious dress.
Gregor leaned over the railing. "Father Tibor?" he called down.
"Yes, yes," Father Tibor said, still hurrying. "Mr. Demarkian. I'm very sorry. I was coming right up, but Mrs. Krekorian was there at the bottom of the stairs—"
"I know Hannah Krekorian," Gregor said.
Father Tibor looked up quickly and smiled. "Everybody knows Mrs. Krekorian," he said. Then he raced the rest of the way up and emerged, puffing and red faced, on the landing. "There. I should have told you to go into the office and sit down. The door is open. It sticks a little."
"That's all right," Gregor said. It was, too. He was beginning to feel as if he spent his entire life sitting down. "I was looking at all the renovations. You've done a lot of work around here."
"Work," Father Tibor said, as if there was something particularly nasty about that word. He brushed past Gregor and walked to the far end of the hall, to an old-fashioned door that had been newly painted black. Then he twisted the knob and pushed, hard.
"Mr. Kashinian had the office remodeled," he said. "It was a very fine remodeling. It's my own fault I can never get this door open."
"Howard Kashinian?" Gregor said.
"That's right." Father Tibor nodded. The nod was vigorous, almost frantic—but everything Father Tibor did was almost frantic. "I keep forgetting. You grew up here. You would know these people."
"What I know about Howard Kashinian is that he used to be the biggest juvenile delinquent on Cavanaugh Street. He got sent to the reformatory when he was twelve and his mother wore black for a year."
Father Tibor's face became a mask of infinite innocence. "There was a little contretemps with the Securities and Exchange Commission," he said blandly, "but that was nearly two years ago, and the charges were dropped. Please come in."
Father Tibor smiled. It was a smile with intelligence in it, and humor, and the acid of a tempered cynicism.
Well, Gregor thought, at least this is going to be interesting. And then, because he had been brought up to it and it's never easy to get rid of what you have been taught in childhood, Gregor grabbed the handle of the door and motioned the priest to go in before him.
Father Tibor's office was full of books—great floor-to-ceiling cases crammed until the wood cracked, great stacks scattered across the floor, small piles on chairs and tables and even an umbrella stand. Tibor had to clear a place for Gregor to sit. When he did, Gregor saw the books were in at least five languages, or maybe six. There were two books in Greek, but Gregor had the impression they weren't in the same Greek. Was it really possible that this man read both ancient and modern Greek? It was an eerie thing, like being presented with the ghost of one of the desert Fathers.
Father Tibor sat behind his desk—he had to take a few books off that chair, too—and folded his hands. It was a classic priest's pose, but Tibor couldn't really look priestly. At his best, he looked like a scholar. At his worst, he reminded Gregor of the old men who had lined the halls outside the Immigration and Naturalization Service in the hottest days of the cold war.
"Well," he said. He looked at the ceiling, and the floor, and his hands. "Well," he said again.
"You wanted to ask me a favor," Gregor prompted him. Tibor cleared his throat. "Well," he said for the third time. "This is very hard for me to say. I told you this had nothing directly to do with the Church?"
"Yes, you did," Gregor said. He didn't say he didn't believe it. In his experience, Armenian priests professed to believe that everything, even the shifting rules of sandlot baseball, had something to do with the Church.
"Well," Tibor said yet again. "I don't know if I should have put it that way. My English is still—I read well enough, but I don't speak ... precisely ... all the time. I get ... in my life, I've had to live in Russian and French and Hebrew and English and sometimes even Armenian. I get ... confused."
"I shouldn't wonder."
"I don't wonder. I just lose my patience. Yes. Well. Maybe it would be easiest this way. Do you know a man named Robert Hannaford?"
Gregor hesitated. Hannaford. The name was familiar, but he couldn't figure out why. He slid, automatically, into what he had been trained to do. Known criminals, suspected criminals, candidates for investigation: the list was appallingly long, but the name Hannaford was not on it. Hannaford wasn't the name of anyone he'd known at the Bureau, either, or any of the victims of crimes still unsolved when he'd taken early retirement. God only knew, there was nobody named Hannaford connected to that last mess of a job he'd left unfinished to sit at Elizabeth's deathbed.
Tibor swiveled in his chair, nearly fell out of it, and finally managed to retrieve two paperback books from the case behind his desk. He pushed them across the clutter to Gregor. This time, Gregor was really surprised. These weren't theology, or history, or even literature with a capital L. They were sword and sorcery popular novels, complete with gold foil lettering and embossed unicorns. Chronicles of Zed and Zedalia, the closer one said. The other was called Zedalia in Winter. On that one, the author's name was above the title, writ large: Bennis Hannaford.
"Bennis Hannaford," Gregor said.
Tibor was bouncing up and down in his chair, making Gregor feel a little dizzy. "She's one of the daughters," he said. "The middle child, I think. Mr. Hannaford has seven children. This one is very successful, a best-seller all the time—"
"I've seen her books. They're all over the newsstands."
"They're all over everywhere. And she has a brother, an older brother, and he runs the family business—"
"I remember," Gregor said, jolting up a little in his chair. That was why he recognized the name—not from the Bureau, but from his life before the Bureau. "Hannaford of Engine House. They made their money in railroads. Rich people out on the Main Line."
"Very rich people," Tibor said, and then, "Protestant, of course."
Gregor bit back a smile. If he knew anything about rich people—and he did; that was one thing a twenty-year stint in the FBI had done for him—the Hannafords were Protestant the way he was Armenian. It was part of the definition.
"Of course," he said.
Father Tibor sighed. "I don't suppose it matters in America. Religious pluralism, they call it. I'm having a hard time getting used to it."
Gregor studied the old man, curious. "Is that what all this is about? Robert Hannaford being Protestant? Your note said—"
"Wait," Tibor said.
"I'm, sorry." Gregor settled into his chair, as well as he could. He was so big, and the chair was so small, he felt a little like a beach ball trapped in a paper clip.
Across from him, Tibor took in an immense breath, let it out again, seemed to count to ten in his head, and stood up. "I have talked to Lida Arkmanian," he said. "She says you are a very famous detective."
"That you once had your picture on the cover of Time magazine."
"Yes, Father, I did, but that was—"
"She said you were very intelligent. I think in this matter you are going to have to be very intelligent."
"Why? What matter? Father—"
Tibor sat down again. "I have had a communication from this man Robert Hannaford. He came here to this office one day last week. He was in a wheelchair. He had a driver with him and he had to be carried up the stairs. But that was just because of his legs. He was not a weak man. Even at his age, over seventy, he is not a weak man. He's not going to die tomorrow. Or next week. He must work himself very hard. The upper half of his body is—" Tibor made a wide motion with his hands and arms. "You see?"
Gregor didn't see anything. Talking with Father Tibor Kasparian was like swimming in ink. It didn't make any sense, and the world was dark. But this was a direct question, and one he could answer, so he did.
"That's not so strange in America," he said. "Disabled people here seem to go one way or the other. Either they give up entirely, or they become obsessive about building up what body they have—"
Tibor brightened. "As a method of control? Yes, that's what I thought it was. All through our talk, I got the impression Mr. Hannaford was a man who loved to be in control—of himself, of me, of everything. It was not pleasant."
"No," Gregor said. "It wouldn't be."
Excerpted from Not a Creature Was Stirring by Jane Haddam. Copyright © 1993 Orania Papazoglou. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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Posted February 14, 2014
Posted October 11, 2013
This book introduces you to many of the very interesting characters that populate this series. It also shows you how many of them become friends. Once you read the first book on the series, you will want to read them all.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 26, 2013
Posted June 8, 2014
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