Terror Town: An Abe Lieberman Mystery

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9780765350213: Terror Town: An Abe Lieberman Mystery

Carl Zwick is an aging Chicago Cubs baseball player. Sometimes he feels like he's spent his life hitting into double plays, but he's finally gotten onto the right track. Then tragedy strikes him out.

Anita Mills is a pretty single black mother just trying to get by. A random act of brutality in one of Chicago's rougher neighborhoods permanently ends her struggle.

Richard Allen Smith walks the streets of ChiTown saying God has sent him. He has an unusual, rather nasty way of getting converts to see the light.

What do these people have in common?

Nothing, it would seem, except they are all part of Detective Abe Lieberman's very long day. Lieberman, a sad, baggy-eyed spaniel of a man with the patience of Job and the wisdom of Solomon is trying his best to make his beloved Chicago a better place.

But when Lieberman and his partner, Bill Hanrahan, encounter these three very different situations they find that there are ties that bind and ties that can cut a man's heart out. Abe Lieberman faces a Gordian knot that he must somehow untangle―and if he makes a mistake, someone very near to him could die.

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About the Author:

Stuart M. Kaminsky is the Edgar Award-winning author of the critically acclaimed Lew Fonesca, Inspector Rostnikov, and Abe Lieberman mystery series, which includes such titles as Not Quite Kosher, The Big Silence, and The Last Dark Place. He lives with his family in Sarasota, Florida.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One
Eight months later

It’s called Terror Town.

No one remembers how it got the name. Probably a cop, maybe a frightened resident.

The residents, almost all black, face the reality of drive-by shootings, prostitution, intimidation, extortion, and drug dealers who rule and terrorize the South Side neighborhood.

Terror Town is roughly bordered on the north by Seventy-fourth Street, on the south by Seventy-ninth Street, and on the east and west by Yates and Exchange.

Residents are eleven times more likely to be victims of violent crime than those living in the rest of the city. More than half the men in Terror Town are unemployed. More than 60 percent of the children in Terror Town are born to unwed mothers, and the infant mortality rate is double that of white Chicago.

The Black P Stones have ruled Terror Town for almost half a century, their leaders going to prison, being released, being replaced. Their life spans are shorter than the Chicago mobsters’ of the 1920s. They call themselves The Nation.

The symbols of the P Stones’ graffiti cover the cracked walls of six-flat apartment buildings, billboards, and abandoned storefronts. The pyramid with an eye and the rising sun, the number 7, the crescent moon, and the five-pointed star. Big bad brother is watching you.

Branches of the Stones roam and ride. In Terror Town and nearby neighborhoods are the Apache Stones, whose mark is simply the letters APS; the ElRukns; the Jet Black Stones; the Titanic Stones; the Ruben Night Stones; the Jabari Stones; and the Black Stone Villains.

The police enter the streets of Terror Town with the same foreboding as Marines in Baghdad. Police have been ambushed and gunned down in this city within a city.

There is a Muslim presence on Kingston Street that distributes food and clothing monthly. There is a library on Seventy-fifth that provides sanctuary for those who seek safety for a few hours.

There are businesses and banks and churches that struggle to prosper, provide, and prepare.

And there are the police, who simply try to keep the sky from falling.

Terror Town at twilight. A Friday afternoon. Anita Mills, her baby in her arms, stepped out of the bank on Seventy-fifth Street.

The cash was folded and tucked into her pocket, deep. She knew better than to put it in her purse, which could be ripped from her arm.

The street was busy. Across from Anita, a group of loiterers in front of a video shop, men of all ages, talking, laughing, smoking, or standing sullen and watching the cars go by. Coming toward her from the right, a mother or grandmother, shopping bags in one hand, a little girl at her side. The woman, heavy, bulbous legs, each step limping agony.

The cab was waiting at the sidewalk. Anita had paid him for the trip there and would pay him for the trip to Royal Murtagh’s office. The driver had a thick Jamaican accent and a nervous smile. It was late spring and warm but not warm enough to bring on the beads of sweat on the man’s ebony forehead. Drugs? Nerves? Who knew? Who cared? Anita was about to escape.

Carmen stirred, asleep on her shoulder, nine months old, lighter than Anita, lighter than the man who was the baby’s father. She knew that people often thought she was the babysitter of a white child when she took Carmen out of Terror Town.

Five steps, maybe six.

And they were there. In front of her. Anita stopped. Two men, both lean, both wearing Halloween masks depicting George W. Bush, both holding guns pointed at Anita.

"Now, fast, bitch," said the man on her left. His voice was young.

The cab she was heading for tore rubber and pulled away, clipping the walker of an old man crossing the street, sending the walker flying in the air like a rocket toward the cluster of men in front of the video store.

Anita didn’t, couldn’t, speak. She clutched her sleeping baby, and shook her head "no."

The man spoke again: "Give now or I shoot the fuckin’ baby in the fuckin’ head. I mean it."

He pressed the gun against the top of Carmen’s head and put his face inches from Anita’s.

Anita was light-headed. The woman with the bad legs and the child shouted, "Leave the baby be."

The second gunman turned his weapon on the woman with the bad legs.

The man with the gun to Carmen’s head ripped the purse from Anita’s shoulder.

Now run, she willed. Not her. Them. Run. No one’s going to chase you. Run and find out that you got twenty-eight dollars and change. Run, damn you.

The second gunman turned toward Anita again. Anita was aware of people watching the show, something to talk about, to witness, better than television in a dark room.

The second gunman tugged at the sleeve of the first, the talker.

"What? Let’s go."

The second gunman reached for the pocket of Anita’s jeans. She turned away. The first gunman grabbed her hair and turned her toward him. Carmen woke up and began to cry. Anita felt the hand go into her pocket, plunging deep, violating her body, her future, her hope.

"No," she shouted, pulling herself away.

The man with his hand in her pocket almost fell over, the gun in his right hand giving off a popping sound that she recognized.

"Fuck," said the first gunman.

"Oh, no, dammit, no," the second man said. It was the first thing he had said. She recognized the voice.

She went back hard, dragging the man with his hand in her pocket to the ground. She held the baby to her chest as she fell on her back, her head hitting the sidewalk with a thunk.

Too many things to do, to think about. No time. The baby was crying harder. That was good.

The twilight was turning black. The hand came out of her pocket.

"You got it?" asked the first gunman.

The second man didn’t answer.

Anita blinked. Something warm and wet was in her eyes but she thought that the second man, the one whose voice she recognized, was holding the envelope he had taken from her pocket.

The bullet had entered her left cheek just below the eye. It didn’t hurt. She tried to hold out her hand. The second gunman hesitated. She could see his dark eyes looking down at her through the dark wetness.

"I didn’t—" he started to say.

"Move ass," said the first gunman.

The bank door opened.

It had been no more than fifteen seconds since Anita had left the bank. She couldn’t see it, but the old man in the blue uniform stepped out of the bank, crouching low, gun extended.

She heard the shot, sensed the robbers running. Heard another shot.

Voices now. Anita couldn’t see.

"Oh, Lord," said a woman, the woman with the bad legs.

Her name was Etta Bartholomew. The frightened child at her side was her granddaughter Dinah.

Anita tried to speak, to say something over the crying of her baby. A name. Anita wanted to hand Carmen to the woman whose voice she had heard, but her arms no longer worked. She repeated the name and then another name.

"Rest easy," said Etta, knees already in pain from the act of kneeling. "Ambulance be here quick."

The woman took the baby gently from Anita’s arms. Anita wanted to k

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