In this legal thriller with “bedrock authenticity” by a New York Times–bestselling author, a Manhattan prosecutor risks his life to catch a serial killer (Kirkus Reviews).
A veteran assistant district attorney, Butch Karp knows that sometimes a prosecutor has to make a deal. The Manhattan courts are backed up worse than Midtown at rush hour, and that means plea bargains. Burglary gets knocked down to trespass, attempted homicide down to simple assault, but Karp has one ironclad rule: In his office, nobody gets away with murder. That rule is about to get put to the test.
All over Manhattan, the city’s drug kingpins are getting shot in the head and dumped in the streets. Is it a turf war, or has someone in the NYPD turned vigilante? When a cop asks Karp to help kill the investigation, Karp is forced to make an impossible choice between his principles and the city he loves.
Based on the personal experience of legendary prosecutor Robert K. Tanenbaum, Reversible Error takes readers on a tour of the grittiest corners of 1970’s New York. “You can smell the Big Apple starting to rot,” writes Kirkus Reviews “as Tanenbaum bores into its mealy core for another uncommonly intelligent legal/cop entertainment.”
Reversible Error is the 4th book in the Butch Karp and Marlene Ciampi series, but you may enjoy reading the series in any order.
“Reversible Error blends dirty politics, women’s rights, sadism, murder, and betrayal with skill and style.” —Orlando Sentinel
“Sizzles and explodes. . . . A gut-wrencher that takes Tanenbaum to the summit.” —Booklist
“Butch Karp and Marlene Ciampi are the most interesting pair of characters in the suspense genre today.” —Chicago Tribune
About the Author
Robert K. Tanenbaum is the New York Times–bestselling author of twenty-six legal thrillers featuring Butch Karp and his crime-fighting wife, Marlene Ciampi. Before publishing his first novel, Tanenbaum had an accomplished legal career. He served as bureau chief of the Criminal Courts, ran the Homicide Bureau in New York City, and was deputy chief counsel to the Congressional Committee Investigations into the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. He has also served two terms as the mayor of Beverly Hills.
Read an Excerpt
He thought he would get more pleasure from killing the Jews, not that he was actually doing it for pleasure, no, it was a necessary act, a political act, he knew that, still ... he had expected to feel something more. It had been too much like killing chickens in the street outside the shanty in Gaza. Mahmoud seemed much more excited, dancing around the little establishment on the tips of his toes and waving his knife, although he hadn't used it all that much when the Jews were alive. Ali had not come into the shop at all, which was correct, because his post was to stand lookout in the doorway.
"We should write a slogan," said Mahmoud. "You should write one. Death to the Jews! Write it in the blood!"
"It is difficult to write in blood," said Yussuf chidingly, "and also incorrect." (He used the Arabic phrase alil el adab, which means shockingly indecent.) "Only sex criminals write in blood. I will write in marker."
He drew a large green Magic Marker out of the side pocket of his field jacket, and wrote the graceful Arabic letters on the mirror that ran the length of the shop, right above the corpses. Then he looked down at them. The woman was lying across her husband's chest, facedown. The back of her tan raincoat was dark, brown-red with blood, as was her hair, which had been white and done up in a neat bun. The man's face was covered with blood too, whether his own or his wife's Yussuf was not sure. The man's thick gold-rimmed spectacles were jammed askew up on his forehead, as if he had paused in reading to rub his eyes.
"What have you written?" asked Mahmoud. Of the three of them, Yussuf was the only one who could write more than a few simple words and his name. This was why he had been chosen leader.
"I wrote, 'Death to Israel,' here, and 'Free Palestine' here, and I signed with the initials of the movement here. Now we must leave."
They moved toward the door, avoiding the spreading pool of blood and the tumble of bagels that had spilled out of the two large paper bags the man had been carrying when they struck. As they passed the cash register at the front of the shop, Mahmoud leaned over and rang the drawer open. The bell seemed unnaturally loud, and Yussuf started.
"What are you doing?"
"It is empty," said Mahmoud. "Where is their money?"
"Idiot! They have not yet opened for business. They keep the money in a little bag. They do not leave it overnight."
Mahmoud looked over at the still bodies. "Why don't we search for it, then?"
"Ya salem! Because we are not thieves. We are soldiers."
"But it is permitted to take from the enemy what we need," Mahmoud objected. "Look! Cigarettes! I will take the Jew's cigarettes." He reached over the counter to the vertical cigarette racks and began to stuff packages of Salems and Marlboros into the flap pockets of his field jacket.
Yussuf grabbed his arm roughly and yanked him away. Packs of cigarettes spilled from the rack and scattered on the floor. He pointed at his new wristwatch and said angrily, "We must be on our train in three minutes. Do you want us to be caught at the very beginning of our campaign?"
With that, Yussuf left the store. The hulking Ali followed him, and after a moment so did Mahmoud. It was just past seven a.m. on a Sunday, and Fourteenth Street was nearly deserted. They walked swiftly, not running, but at a good pace eastward, where they entered the Canarsie line BMT subway and took the train back to Brooklyn.
Seven minutes later, a blue-and-white radio-patrol car of the NYPD pulled up in front of the murder scene, Abe's Elite Appetizing. Two officers, a man and woman, climbed out and confronted the two frightened NYU students who, in search of an early morning toasted bagel with cream cheese, had discovered the blood-covered bodies within. The female officer, a stocky blonde named Sherry Koota, pulled out her pad and took down the students' personal data and what they had to say about the crime, which was not much. They had come in, seen it, and immediately called 911 from the pay phone in the shop. Koota's partner, Patrolman Edwin Roscoe, had meanwhile entered the shop, gun in hand. He gave the bodies a wide berth and checked behind the glass-fronted cooler display and the short serving counter, and then went through a narrow hallway, checking the storage closet, the toilet, and the rear entrance, which was locked from the inside with a heavy bar, and alarmed. Then he went back to the shop proper, holstering his pistol as he went.
By this time Koota was kneeling over the two victims, peering at the woman's head.
"Don't touch nothing, Koota," said Roscoe, who, with three years on the force, was the senior of the two, and had been made painfully aware that the only duty of the so-called "first officer" at a murder scene was to take the names of witnesses and secure the area from any disturbance, especially from those far too common disturbances caused by first officers.
"I'm not," said Koota, "but look at this."
Roscoe knelt too, being careful not to tread in the congealing pool of blood.
"You see that strand of her hair, over the ear, the bloody one?" Koota asked, pointing. "Just watch it for a second."
Roscoe did. He said, "It's moving! Holy shit, she's alive!"
"She's dead," said Koota confidently. "The guy under her, he's alive."
Detective Sergeant James L. Raney, working homicide out of Midtown South, carefully copied the squiggles on the mirror in Abe's Elite Appetizing into his notebook. The crime-scene unit people had taken any number of photographs of the interior of the shop and the bodies (now departed, one to the morgue and the other to nearby Beth Israel Hospital) and the bloodstains, but Raney was a careful detective and liked to have the relevant material on his actual person during the course of a case.
He put the notebook away and regarded himself frankly in the dusty brown-speckled glass. Raney was in his mid-thirties, young for a detective sergeant, with a map-o'-Ireland face, blue-eyed model. The eyes were cop eyes, although he had managed to avoid the cop gut. A good dresser too, Raney. His blue suit came from Hickey-Freeman; his shoes, which were highly polished, were Florsheim Imperials. He didn't take bribes, but he didn't, like many cops, have a string of ex-wives and kids to support, either. Beau James was one of his three departmental nicknames. The second, which adverted to an incident some years previously, in which he had killed four armed robbers in fifteen seconds by shooting them each through the head, was Pistol Jim, although not to his face.
Raney wandered over to where the head of the crimescene unit was gathering up his equipment.
"Do any good?" he asked.
"Oh, yeah," said the man. "We got an actual bloody thumb print on the cash drawer there. Some sneaker prints in the blood. You're looking for a pair, by the way. Two different prints. You catch these fuckers, they're gonna go down for it." He looked around the little shop and frowned. "Fuckin' shame, right? Looked like a couple of decent people. The guy gonna make it?"
Raney shrugged. "White's over at Beth Israel finding out. Maybe he'll come to and say something. Funny thing about that thumb printthe money was in a zip bag in the vic's pocket, the woman. They couldn't have got away with anything but some smokes."
The CSU man grunted, no longer surprised by any funny things to do with murders.
After that Raney went outside and chatted with Roscoe and Koota and their sergeant, spread some compliments around, and arranged for a local canvass, to see if anyone knew why someone would want to murder Abe and Reva Shilkes, aside from the obvious thing, a robbery gone sour. There was a daughter too; he would have to talk to her as well. He went back into the shop and used the pay phone for twenty minutes and then came out to the sidewalk, paced for a while, and scrounged a Post from the front seat of the CSU van. The sports pages were of little interest. Raney followed only baseball and basketball. It was now the baseball season and, a month in, it was perfectly apparent that neither the Yankees nor the Mets had the remotest chance of a pennant in 1981. Raney had been born in 1949, and for the first twenty years of his life the Yanks had won the pennant fourteen times. This had shaped his consciousness of the way things ought to be and, like many a New Yorker, he regarded the recent trend as a prime symbol of the city's decline. Much of the news section was devoted to the aftermath of the assassination attempt on President Reagan. There, at least, they had the guy. He snorted, folded the paper, and tossed it back on the van's seat.
Raney hated this case already. It was, first of all, a mystery, which is what NYPD detectives call a murder when the murderer is not readily apparent, in contrast to a grounder, when they find the guy weeping in the front room and the wife and the ball bat and the blood are to be found in the bedroom. It was not that he feared that they would fail to find the murderers. The crime scene had convinced him that they were not dealing here with Dr. Moriarty, the Napoleon of Crime, but with a couple of assholes, and by and large, assholes were easy to find and catch. It was the other stuff that irritated him: the victims were Jewish, and while Raney was no linguist, the scrawls on the mirror looked like Arabic writing to him. That stank. The only thing worse than a mystery was a mystery with ethnic politics smeared over it.
A dark brown Plymouth Fury drove up to the curb, and Detective Second Grade Alonso White got out. This person, whose skin was the color of damp coffee grounds, was about a third larger than Raney and not nearly as well dressed. He was wearing a leather hip-length car coat, which he had purchased, along with the rest of his clothes (gray slacks, black rubber-soled shoes, a black-checked shirt and a knitted tie, with the wrong end sliding over his belt buckle) in one of the cheap men's shops to be found on Sixth Avenue in the Forties. He had two ex-wives and three children. Raney liked him well enough, for, although he had a mild case of the racism nearly universal among his caste and class, he also held that carrying the tin made you, on the job at least, an honorary Irishman. He also sort of liked the man's habit of extending a hand that looked like a bouquet of knockwursts, grinning gaudily, and saying, "Hi, I'm White."
To Raney's inquiring look White responded, "It looks like he's going to make it. Took a couple of holes in the gut and one to the neck. Lucky." He laughed. "Not exactly the right word, considering."
"Did you talk to him?"
"Uh-uh. He's recovering from the surgery. I'll go by later. What's up?"
"CSU says it's at least a couple of mopes. No money taken, but they helped themselves to the cigarettespacks scattered all over."
"Guys had a nicotine fit," said White. "They plead temporary insanity and walk. What about that shit on the mirror?"
"I set up a meet with a professor at Columbia, we'll get it translated. Meanwhile, assuming we're dealing with Arabs, we need to touch base with Brooklyn, the Eight-Four." White nodded. Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, where the Arabs lived.
Dr. Philip Adouri was younger than he had sounded to Raney over the phone, and proved to be a gentle-faced Lebanese in his early thirties with a slight accent and a careful manner of speech. He looked at the eight-by-ten photographs of the mirror graffiti for so long that Raney thought he had dozed off.
"Um, is there some problem with the translation, sir?" Raney asked.
"Oh, no, no, it is quite clear as to the meaning. It is just that ... who did you say wrote these?"
Raney and White shared a look. "That's what we're trying find out, sir. It's an investigation."
"Oh, yes, of coursehow stupid! Well, then, as to the meaning. This line, here, is mot lil yehudeen, 'death to the Jews,' and this below is huriyah li falastin, 'freedom for Palestine.' This," he said, pointing a slim finger at three large single letters at the bottom of the screed, "this means nothing, unless it is the initials of some organization; in English the closest equivalent would be D.D.H."
"You have any idea of what it means, Doctor?" Raney asked, writing the translations neatly into his notebook. "Any organizations you're familiar with ..."
The professor smiled and made a dismissive gesture. "Oh, Arabs are always making organizations. They come and go like the clouds. This could be three people, four people in a back room, or it could even be the initials of a person. But, you know, the orthography is interesting. The person who wrote it ... I should tell you that while written Arabic is the same all over the world, spoken Arabic is quite different from nation to nation, region to region. A Mahgrebi, from Morocco, say, can hardly understand a Lebanese. There are also differences, slight differences, in the way the letters are formed in different places, just as you would notice, for example, a German's writing is different from an American's, even in English. So ... this personeducated to a degree, but certainly not a university graduate or student. Perhaps the equivalent of high school? In any case, an unpracticed writer. There are errorshere he has used the medial rather than the final form, there, the wrong letter. Not a Mahgrebi. Not Iraqi. Egyptian perhaps, but more likely Eastern MediterraneanPalestine, Lebanon, Jordan. Notice here how he writes this letter, the long ee sound, slanting over to the left, and here"
Raney's beeper sounded, and he was saved from learning more about Arabic calligraphy than he wanted to know. He asked to use a phone and called Lieutenant Meagher, his watch commander, who ordered him to return to the precinct house forthwith, which is a word that NYPD officials use when they want you to do something so immediately and so urgently that it is not worthwhile thinking of excuses not to.
Raney and White thus left the professor with brief thanks and headed south from Columbia on Broadway. On the way Raney called the desk sergeant at the Midtown South Precinct and asked what was going on; Meagher had been excessively terse.
"Oh, we got a lovely situation here, Raney," said the desk sergeant. "Wait'll you see this!"
"Jews, Raney. We got black hats, we got the TV, the radio, we got suits from downtown, we got the Tacticals coming. Oh, it's rare ... what? Raney, I got to go now."
There were some odd sounds over the receiver and then silence. White frowned and stomped harder on the pedal. Raney slapped the red flasher on the roof, and they sped south.
The Midtown South homicide squad is responsible for homicides in the fat band across the island of Manhattan that runs from Central Park down to the north side of Thirteenth Street. It is housed in the Manhattan South Precinct at 357 West Thirty-fifth Street. As it happens, this location is in an area even more bountifully supplied with Jews than the rest of the city. The garment district, the theatrical district, and the diamond district are all within an easy hike, and in fact, there is a synagogue right across the street. When Raney and White arrived, they discovered that what looked like a large proportion of all these people had converged in front of Midtown South.
They had to leave their car at the corner of Ninth and Thirty-fifth. The street was impassable: besides the mob itself were TV vans, the buses from Tactical, and a number of large, shiny vehicles in which police brass traveled through the City. The crowd was composed largely of black-hatted, bearded men, although there was also a good number of men in contemporary business and working garb, and a sprinkling of women. They filled the street from wall to wall, and their angry attention was directed at the front steps of Midtown South, where, behind a wall of tall, broad Tactical cops in helmets and body armor, stood a group of worried-looking police officials.
White used his bulk to cleave through the crowd, holding his gold shield before him like the bowsprit of a clipper, Raney followed in his wake. The Tacticals parted to let them through, and Raney was immediately spotted and hustled through the door by his lieutenant.
"What the fuck is this, Loo?"
"This is your case, Jim, the Shilkes killing. The natives are restless, son. That asshole on the car's been pumping them up for the last twenty minutes."
Raney looked out through the door and saw a man wearing a black hat and suit and a short black beard standing on the hood of a car haranguing the crowd through a bullhorn. Raney could not make out the exact words, but he seemed to be displeased with the NYPD.
"Who is he?"
"Rabbi Lowenstein," said Meagher, an expression of profound distaste forming on his broad, pink Irish face.
Raney nodded. Lowenstein was semi-famous in the city as the leader of a paramilitary group he called the Guardians of Israel; his relationship with the NYPD was not good, that organization taking a dim view of groups with vigilante pretensions.
Meagher seemed to recall something and turned to Raney, scowling. "Why the hell didn't you keep a watch on Shilkes? That's how this whole mess started."
"Loo, the guy was out cold. I'm trying to solve a case here. What did he have to do with it?"
"Out cold? Well, he woke up, and he talked to his daughter, and she got in touch with the good rabbi there, and here we are. The story is, the guys who killed his wife came in shouting Arab slogans, Allah, Allah, whatever, and so now we got it blown into a gang of Arab terrorists is starting a campaign of assassination against Jews in New York. Lowenstein is demanding protectionha!and also, and especially, that we grab the mutts who did it, preferably yesterday. Sowhat do you have?"
"Have? For crying out loud, Loo, I been on the case three hours. The guy up at Columbia says the killers wrote 'kill the Jews' and 'free Palestine' on the wall and the writer was probably a Palestinian who couldn't spell real good. That narrows it down."
Meagher kept glancing over at the group of suits and brass standing in a small group behind their guards. Huge fake-fur-covered mikes on poles thrust up at them like a hostile phalanx. Below, the press was baying questions. One of the suits gave Meagher the eye, and the lieutenant hurried over. They conversed briefly, and the suit spoke to another suit, who moved forward and addressed the cameras. To his dismay, Raney heard the words "already several suspects" and "arrest imminent," and the suit went on to mention a $25,000 reward for information leading to, put up by the United Jewish Philanthropies of New York.
White, who had skulked in the background while Raney dealt with Meagher, came up and said disgustedly, "Oh, great! Now every hard-on in town is gonna be on us with his cousin Charley did it. What'd the Loo say?"
"Shilkes is conscious again. Get over to Beth Israel and take his statement. Go now! Before the riot starts."
White left and the riot did start, as more Tacticals debussed at Ninth Avenue and started to clear the street, moving in a line with helmet shields down and batons swinging. A thrown bottle shattered against the door frame. The suits all hunched momentarily and then, some glancing about to see if anyone had noticed, strode boldly to their cars and departed.
As he watched, bemused, the dispersal of the Jews, Raney felt a hand on his arm. "Whatever you need, Jim, just ask!" said Lieutenant Meagher. "And forget everything else you got on the board. But wrap this one up fast, wrap it up good! Make it disappear!"
Napoleon, they say, when presented with an officer to be promoted to the rank of general, always asked, "Is he lucky?" Raney was a good, bright, conscientious detective, like many another on the force, but he was also lucky. This was apparent, since he had, after all, gone into that darkened bakery after four robbers armed with shotguns and automatic weapons and had killed them all without suffering a scratch himself. Lucky Jim was his third nickname.
"So, Lucky Jim," said White later that day, as he drove them across the Williamsburg Bridge to Brooklyn, "is our ass in a sling now or what?"
"Partially," admitted Raney. "On the up side, I don't think we're dealing with a big international mastermind here. Carlos the Jackal is probably not a player."
"They were sloppy, you mean? The tracks, the cigarettes ..."
"Yeah. On the other hand, they didn't just walk down Fourteenth and go, 'Hey, look, Jews, let's waste them.'"
"Because the thing was cased. The Shilkeses opened the store at seven every Sunday carrying fresh bagels, like clockwork. The perps knew that and they were waiting. Then they disappear. How? I doubt they just strolled away. They either had to have a car, or they took the subway, and if they took the subway, they had to know what the train schedule was going to be early on Sunday, because they sure as shit didn't want to be hanging around on a platform with maybe blood on their clothes for twenty minutes. So, planning."
White thought about that for a while, and it did not amuse him. "What do you think? Is Brooklyn going to do us any good?"
"Oh, I don't know," said Raney, leaning back and watching the gray tenements of Williamsburg rush by. "It could be we'll catch a break."
Their first stop was the Eighty-fourth Precinct, on Gold Street, in the shadow of the Manhattan Bridge. The Eighty-fourth is a squat little precinct that has the misfortune to include both the gentrified brownstones of Brooklyn Heights and the ungentrified brownstones of South Brooklyn, a once decent working-class neighborhood ruined by freeway construction, gone slummy, and full of people wishing to prey on the conveniently nearby gentry. It logs a lot of robbery, a lot of burglary, and somewhat under a hundred killings a year, all of which argued against the cops there having much time to spare for accumulating deep knowledge of Arab fringe organizations.
The detective squad room there was a near duplicate of the many in which Raney had spent the past decade, the banged-up furniture, the green paint, the brown tile underfoot, the pervasive reek of tobacco, the continual din of ringing phones. Two cops were at desks, one phoning, one typing slowly. A thin brown man, obviously a skell from the tank downstairs, was pushing a broom desultorily across the floor for cigarette money.
"Arabs, huh?" said McIlvey, the day-shift detective sergeant. "Yeah, we got Arabs up the ying-yang, but they don't usually give us much trouble. Peaceful bastards, and a lot of them are illegals; they don't want to see us much." He creaked back in his chair, to demonstrate peacefulness. McIlvey was a white-haired, heavyset Irishman of the booze-blossom-nosed type, nearing retirement and not apt to get exercised over a Manhattan case, no matter what the bosses said.
They showed him the pictures of the graffiti from the crime scene.
"We think those initials down at the bottom are an organization," said Raney. "You recall seeing anything like that sprayed on walls or on tattoos?"
"Nah. But I don't get out as much as I did. What I'll do for you is post it in the squad room, maybe somebody saw something. Like I say, we got 'em, but we don't got 'em. Not like the spics, you know?"
They knew, and if White had not been there it would have been the niggers too. Raney sensed his partner's intense desire to get away from this useless man. He was just thinking that they would have to come back and talk to the night-shift people, maybe get a live one, when McIlvey said, "You know, it's funny, we had one of them in here last night. Yo, Harris," he called to the man at the typewriter, "what was the name of that crazy fucker last night?"
"The fuck I know, Sarge," answered Harris, and went tap. Tap. "Ask his roomie there." Tap.
"Oh, yeah," said McIlvey, and turned to the broom. "Skeeter, what was your pal's name there, that AY-rab?"
"Not my pal, Sarge."
"Well, fuck it, anyway. Fuckin' thing too," said McIlvey. "Couple of our guys brought him in last night, late in the graveyard. Driving like a bat out of hell down Fulton Street in a fuckin' bakery truck, no taillights, so our guys, Pendergrass and Newton ... hey, Harris, it was Pendergrass, wasn't it?"
"Yeah, right," said Harris. Tap.
"Yeah, so they give chase, like they say, going seventy, eighty down Fulton Street, got a couple more RPCs in on it, and they finally got the mutt in a box and he gave it up. Guy had a knife on him as long as your arm. Didn't have a license, no registration. Insurance? Lots of luck! I don't know, the fuckin' people this country lets in nowadays...."
Raney had been looking for a graceful way to pull away, but the mention of the knife sparked a flicker of interest. "You say they picked this guy up late last night?"
"Morning, actually. Maybe four."
"So he was in custody at like around seven this morning?"
"Oh, yeah. He must have gone out with the van to central booking at eight or around there. But like I say, that's unusual. Most of 'em are pretty peaceful. Although, now that I think of it, a couple months ago we had a guy beat up his wife pretty bad, an Arab"
"Yeah, well, look, Sarge, we got to get going right now" Raney began, and then the broom said, "He was gonna kill him some Jews, that boy. Boy had a motherfuckin' thing about the Jews. Him and his friends. Said he had some damn organization. Damn sumbitch didn't have no more sense than a chicken. I said to him, hey, man"
"Say, Skeeter?" Raney interrupted, vibrating now, feeling the luck flow and the sweat pop up on his scalp. "This kid say exactly which Jews he was planning to kill?"
"Nah. He just running his mouth, you know? Like, he said his organization was gonna do one this morning, and he was real pissed he wasn't gonna be there, on account of his ass being in jail, you know? He was hot to go. He kept asking me, when we get out, when we get out? Like I the fuckin judge, you know?" The man laughed, a phlegmy, unpleasant rattle that turned into a cough.
Raney said, "Sarge, I think we're gonna need to borrow Skeeter for a while." McIlvey grunted and looged at the floor, and for an instant Raney actually thought he was going to refuse until Skeeter finished a sweep and a damp-mop.
The Arab misdemeanant, whose name was Walid Daoud, had a job and a father who owned abusiness, and so had been released on his own recognizance by the time they got to the Brooklyn jail. They drove the short hop to Atlantic Avenue, where the bakery was at which Daoud supposedly worked. Raney looked around him with greater interest. This neighborhood had expanded a good deal in the last decade. Once a relatively small community of Syrian and other Mideastern Christians, it had burgeoned down Atlantic Avenue east of its former boundary at Court Street and become more exotic, more Muslim. Women with shawls and shapeless dresses whose hems touched their shoes pulled shopping carts and hand-held strings of olive-skinned children down the street and in and out of small shops. There were even some women wearing the full traditional robes, with veil, and there were old bearded men wearing checkered headdresses. Sunday was clearly a big shopping day among the Brooklyn Arabs. There were a lot of kids. The day had turned warm, a herald of spring, and the storekeepers had moved the merchandise out on the sidewalk on homemade flats, and the clothing merchants had hung garments up on poles, giving the street the air of a souk, as did also the odors, burnt coffee, baking bread, and something spicy that Raney did not recognize, but which, he thought, was probably as familiar to these people as ... what was a typical Irish fragrance? Cabbage? Whiskey? This had been an Irish neighborhood once, eighty years back, then Italian, now Arab.
Raney reflected on this transition to White, who was unimpressed. "Mutts are mutts, it don't matter a fuck where they come from."
"No? You don't think there's a difference? A Jew mutt and a black mutt?"
"What, you think the Jew mutt is smarter?"
"No, I didn't mean that. Just ... different people put a different curve on the ball. It changes, but it's always the same. Twenty-five years the houses and stores'll still be here, but the cops'll be Arabs and the people, the mutts'll be, I don't know, Eskimos, Tibetans, whatever."
The interested tone in Raney's voice did not spark any enthusiasm in White, who was a sports-and-pussy rather than a sociological-speculation kind of guy, nor in Skeeter, who was snoring liquidly in the backseat. They drove in relative silence therefore until Gallatin Street, where White said, "There it is. Want me to go around the back?"
"No, I don't think so. This guy's not going to run."
Nor did he. Walid Daoud was summoned from the back of the shop by the pretty, sullen teenage girl minding the counter and came out trailing his father and clouds of white dust. The detectives made the usual explanation about wanting to ask a few more questions, the father berated the boy strenuously in Arabic, swatted him on the head a few, and they left without resistance. If Walid was surprised to see Skeeter in the car, he made no show of it, riding in silence during the twenty-five-minute trip to Midtown South.
They got Walid in the little room, and White, of course, was the bad cop. Raney thought he did a good job, no rough stuff, but a lot of shouting, and banging of chairs and throwing of telephone books, and impugning the manhood of the interviewee. You and your friends planned this, and then you chickened out, didn't you? You little coward! What are you, some kind of faggot, you don't have the guts to knife an old Jew? And so on, which got the expected rise out of Walid and an excuseI was going, I was hurrying, I got arrested. What were their names? Your friends? Silence. Rage from White, threats, a final chair kicking, and then Raney stopped it and hustled White out of the room.
Offer of coffee, offer of cigarettes, apologies for White, a little racist remark, just to solidify the bond, we're white men, you and I, he's ... well, you know what they're like. Then the schtick.
"Look, Walid, you know, if it was a political crime, that's one thing, we respect that. I mean, a man's got to stand up for his rights, am I right?"
Walid nodded at this. A good-looking kid, Raney thought: big eyes, clear skin, good little body. Those eyelasheslittle shit probably gets more pussy than Warren Beatty.
"We are fighters for free Palestine, fedayin," said Walid with feeling.
"I appreciate that, Walid, but I got to say, you're in a lot of trouble over this. I don't like to see that, a kid your age."
"But ... I was not there!"
"Yeah, we know that. But you're what we call an accessory. You helped your friends plan this crime. You can be charged with conspiracy. You could go to jail for a long time."
"I do not care!" said Walid. "The Zionists put hundreds in jail, hundreds, hundreds, so I join them. I do not care."
"Right, I see that, but Walid, for you it wouldn't be like that. You see ... I'm not supposed to tell you this, but ..." Raney looked over his shoulder and leaned forward conspiratorially. "The thing is, your friends robbed the people they attacked. They took the money from the store, so this won't be treated as a political crime at all. It's just gonna go down as another store robbery and murder. It's not gonna help your cause one little bit."
Walid stared, his mouth slightly open.
"Yeah, see, they screwed up, and the shame of it is, you're gonna have to take the fall, for nothing." He let that sink in for a moment and then resumed. "Now, this place where you planned the thing, the attack, that's your organization headquarters, right?"
"Yes. Duhd el Dar al-Harb. This is us."
"Uh-huh. What does that mean exactly?"
"It means, Against the House of War. It is the struggle. The Dar ul-Islam fights against the Zionists, the imperialists. These we call the Dar al-Harb, the House of War." He banged his fists together violently to mime the intensity of the thing.
"I see. Now in this headquarters you probably have posters, pamphlets, all about what you're doing, political stuff, right?"
"Yes, of course. We have this. And cassettes, from Palestine."
"Well, that's great, Walid. So, if we went there and found that stuff, see, it would be political then. You'd be in a whole different situation. You'd be a hero."
Walid frowned. "You want ... just the place, the garage. Not the names. I don't give the names."
"Hey, right, just the place. You're a stand-up guy, Walid. We respect that. No, just the address. So we can get the political stuff."
Raney left the room elated, with an address. An hour later, armed with a search warrant and backed up by a dozen heavily armed and flak-jacketed uniforms from the Eighty-fourth, Raney and White burst through the back door of a garage on Adams Street, Brooklyn, where they found posters of Yassir Ararat, pamphlets justifying the destruction of Israel, cassettes urging the same, a pair of field jackets spotted with a reddish-brown substance, one with a big green magic marker (similarly stained) in a pocket, and the other with eight packs of Salems in a pocket, two eight-inch hunting knives, stained with a reddish-brown substance, and two surprised young men. The young men did not speak much English, but sometime later they were identified (with the aid of a Syrian-American patrolman from the Eighty-fourth) as Yussuf Naijer and Mahmoud Hamshari, both late of Gaza, in the occupied territories of Palestine, and illegally in the United States. They were both taken to Midtown South, where they were put into a lineup and videotaped, which tape was then brought to Beth Israel, where it was shown to Mr. Shilkes. He had no trouble picking Naijer and Hamshari out as the men who had killed his wife. Raney went back to Midtown South and booked the two men for murder and Walid for conspiracy to commit murder.
As he sat down at his desk to complete the paperwork, he looked at his watch. It was a little over twelve hours since the crime. The suits would be pleased.
Ali al-Qabbani watched the police take away his two comrades and seal the room behind the garage. He doubted that Abdel, the garage's owner, would wish to re-employ him after this, which meant that he had no money, no job, no clothes or possessions other than what he stood in now, and no place to sleep. He-had, however, one place to go, and so he went there.
It was a long walk in the waning light, up Atlantic Avenue and south down Sixth Avenue into the more genteel, tree-shaded precincts of Park Slope. There he walked through a wrought-iron gate up to a nicely groomed brownstone and rang the bell. The man who answered it was well-fleshed and short, with a beautiful head of dark hair swept back from his forehead. He was wearing red leather slippers, blue jeans, and a white shirt buttoned at the collar. And he was sleek in the way that some men were where Ali came from, the men with the big cars and the bodyguards. You went to men like that when you were in trouble, and they helped you or they did not. The expression on this man's face when he saw Ali standing there did not promise well.
"What are you doing here, you idiot?" he said in Arabic. "You were told never, ever to come here."
Ali looked down from his height and said, "Please, Khalid-effendi, the police have been to Abdel's. I have no place to go and no money."
Chouza Khalid's angry look was replaced by one of calculation and then one of beneficence, which, had Ali any brains at all, would have made him flee as from wild dogs. Instead, he followed the man's gesturing arm into the tiled entranceway and then through another door into a carpeted hallway lit with sconces and furnished with a gold-framed mirror, a shining wooden table holding a vase of flowers, and a carved red velvet chair. There Khalid bade him wait and he did, standing, of course, because it would never have occurred to him to take the liberty of sitting in the velvet chair.
Khalid left the hallway and went through a large, modern kitchen to a door, which he unlocked, and then descended to the basement. He then unlocked another door and entered a small darkened room, where a man sat on a couch, smoking and watching television. The man had a short gray-black beard, deeply socketed dark eyes, visible now only as pits lit by the flickering TV, and long, tapering, elegant fingers. He was wearing a white djelaba and a white, knitted skullcap. He did not take his eyes from the TV as Khalid spoke.
"It is Ali."
"Inevitably," said the bearded man. "The poor lad has nowhere else to go. Tell me, he is our only contact?"
"Yes, I ordered him not to tell, and he is an obedient boy. Dull like the rest, but reliable. I don't think he would have spoken of it to Naijer or Mahmoud. He didn't like them. He was most friendly with Walid, but, of course, Walid did not participate, and will not be much bothered by the police, if God wills. So ... a long journey?"
"Yes, by water," said the bearded man. For the first time he looked up at Khalid. "And the other enterprise?"
"They arrive tomorrow, men and supplies. It is all arranged. If God wills, it will all go as we have planned."
"If God wills," echoed the bearded man and then returned his full attention to the screen, where a drama depicting the lives of the police was in progress. Apparently the American police spent much of their time seducing women, which was interesting if true. The bearded man watched television almost all the time. He felt it was the best way for him to understand this truly amazing nation.
Dismissed, Chouza Khalid went up the stairs, locking both doors behind him.
Table of Contents
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Thisis full of obvious errors for a book set in 1981 - they really take you out of the story (which is not that strong to begin with). Both the 'Godfather' and 'Star Wars' trilogies are mentioned as well as 'Purple Rain' and REM - for these not to be caught somewhere along the line suggests sloppy work
Reckless Endangerment was the first Tannenbaum book I read and it made me want to look for more. The relationship between the two main characters, Butch and Marlene, is believeable in a fantastic sort of way and it's easy to cheer them on. The book has its share of on-the-edge-of-your-seat excitement; the risks Marlene takes because of her passion for living her values seem to infuriate her husband while making him love her more. All of the characters are likeable yet realistic with their unique flaws. It's not a can't-put-it-down book, but close. Great for beach reading!