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Abe Lieberman, the Chicago PD detective, has never has it easy when it comes to emotional cases, but this time the action is getting little too close to home. His temple has been vandalized along with four others, and it looks like the vandals have more sinister plans in mind. Finding the culprit opens a window on the broiling ethnic tensions on Chicago's North Side, and what's happening in Abe's family life does nothing to turn down the heat. If he and his partner, Hanrahan, can locate the vandals who have targeted the city's Jews, they may be able to put a stop to some of the madness before violence enters the picture.
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Stuart M. Kaminsky is the Edgar Award-winning author of the critically acclaimed Inspector Rostnikov, Toby Peters, Lew Fonesca, and Abe Lieberman mystery series. He lives with his family in Sarasota, Florida.
The morning rush hour at the Edgewater Restaurant, which was little more than a small diner, was over. Traffic hurried by in the late spring rain. People scurried with and without umbrellas down Lawrence Avenue. There were only three customers in the dinner; two of them were Korean businessmen who owned shops in the area, one a cleaning store, the other a show store. They were sitting in a booth finishing a later breakfast and arguing in Korean about something. The only other customer, a burly, weary-looking white man, sat in the booth behind them drinking coffee from a white mug and reading the Sun-Times.
The old counterman in a white apron filled white ceramic containers with packets of Sweet'n Low, Equal, and sugar. When the diner door opened, letting in the sound and smell of falling rain, the counterman barely looked up. The burly man shipped his coffee and turned to the sports pages in back. But the two Korean businessmen turned, rose from their unfinished breakfast and hurried to the counter to pay. One of them placed a ten-dollar bill near the cash register. The other businessman, the one with the shoe store, tried not to look at the trio who had come into the restaurant, one of whom was now closing the door behind him.
"I'll add it up," said the counterman, putting aside his packet container and wiping his hands on his apron.
"No need," said the cleaning store operator. "You keep change."
"Suit yourself," said the counterman with a shrug and reached for the ten spot while the businessmen made their way around the three men who had just entered.
The three were in their twenties, Korean. Two were dressed in the black jeans, nicely laundered white button-down shirts, and identical leather bomber jackets. The third Korean was slightly older than the other two and wore a black London Fog raincoat and sunglasses. The three moved to the counter and sat as the old counterman smoothed his white mustache and asked, "What'll it be, gentlemen?"
"Mr. Park," said the one in the middle, the one wearing sunglasses.
"Park's sick," said the counterman. "You wanna start with coffee?"
The three young men sat silently, barely wet from the pouring rain, their car probably parked within a few feet of the diner. The three men watched the old man pour them coffee. Their cups sat untouched. The old counterman put out the sugar and sugar substitutes and a small metal pitcher of milk.
"When will Mr. Park return?" the young man with glasses said, without a trace of accent.
The old counterman shrugged his thin shoulder and said, "Couldn't say. Pretty sick. Something with his stomach. Hypotonectosis, I'm talking over the place for a while, maybe a long while." The counterman heaved a heavy sigh and looked around the place. "Thought I was safely retired, but...what'll it be? Hotcakes, eggs, fruit and yogurt cup? Strawberries are fresh."
"Fruit and yogurt," said the young man, removing his glasses to clean the rain off with a napkin.
The old man looked at the flankers who shook their head without speaking. The old man shrugged and called the order back to someone in the kitchen. Then he moved from behind the counter with the coffee pot in his hand to give a refill to the burly man who grumbled something about the Cubs having no pitchers again, about someone named Dickerson giving up two runs in the eighth.
The old man shook his head sympathetically as he retreated behind the counter and returned the pitcher to the hot plate. He picked up the fruit cup and delivered it to the young Korean whose glasses were now cleaned to his satisfaction back on his nose.
"We have come to collect," said the young man, "I am sure Mr. Park informed you that we come in every other Friday to collect."
The old man looked puzzled. "Park got sick suddenly. Rushed to the hospital. I talked to his daughter, said I'd take over. Park's an old friend. How's the yogurt cup?"
"These strawberries are not fresh," said the young man. "They were frozen."
"I swear on my mother's life," the old man said shaking his head. "I thought we had fresh strawberries. You want me to take it back? No charge."
He reached for the cup. The young man grabbed his wrist and held it tightly. One of the other two men looked at the man reading his newspaper. The burly man didn't seem to be paying any attention.
"We collect one hundred dollars every two weeks," the man in the glasses said softly, "Today is collection day."
"Collect?" said the counterman, trying to pull his arm away. "For what?"
"Protection," said the young man.
"From who, what?" the old man said, still trying to free his arm.
"From us," the young man said softly. "Park pays. We don't break his windows. We don't mess the place up. We don't mess up Park or his family. What we could do to Park, we could to you. Hypo..."
"...tonectosis," the old man finished.
"You'll wish you were in the hospital with it next to park. You understand?"
"This is a shakedown," the old man said, frightened but also angry. "This is blackmail."
"Now you understand," the young man said, letting go of the counterman's arm. "Every other week we collect one hundred dollars from every Korean business in the neighborhood."
"I'm not Korean," said the old man.
"As of right now, till Park returns, you are acting Korean," said the young man, adjusting his dark glasses as the counterman rubbed his wrist and looked at all three of the young men. The one on the right smiled slightly.
"Blackmail," repeated the old man.
"Extortion," the young man with glasses corrected.
"I'm not paying," said the old man, backing away from the counter.
The young man in the middle, the leader who had grabbed the old man's wrist, put his palms together and touched his hand to his lips as if in prayer.
"Then," he said, "We will begin by breaking two of your fingers and destroying the kitchen."
The two young men flanking the leader got up from their stools. One of them moved around the counter heading for the counterman. The other headed slowly toward the kitchen.
"You hear all that?" the counterman said.
"Clear as spring rain," answered the burly man, still looking at his newspaper.
"Leave now," the young man with glasses said to the burly man. The man who was heading for the kitchen paused at the customer's table and a knife suddenly appeared in the young man's hand, a long, thin-bladed knife. He pointed it at the burly man.
"OK," said the old counterman, wearily stepping back in front of the bespectacled Korean.
The young man smiled and then, to this total surprise, the old counterman reached over, grabbed the front of his jacket, and with an unexpected strength yanked the young man onto the counter, overturning the yogurt plate and one of the cups of coffee. The young Korean was appalled to finds the barrel of a pistol pressed up against the right lens of his glasses.
When the other two young m en moved to help their leader, the burly man lowered his newspaper, revealing a pistol in his hand. "Stop there," he said.
The two ignored him and took a step forward. The young man looking into the gun barrel shuddered.
"I said 'stop' in clear, plain, loud English," the burly man shouted, firing his weapon with the ceiling.
This time, the two mean stopped.
"You OK, Rabbi?" the burly cop said, sliding out of the booth, weapon aimed at the frozen young Koreans.
"Lovely, Father Murphy," said the old man, releasing the young man with the glasses but keeping the gun leveled at his head.
"Tape?" asked the burly cop, knocking the knife from the hand of the young man nearest him.
Gun still leveled, the old man reached beneath the counter and pulled out a small tape recorded. "I'll leave it running in case these gentlemen have anything more to say."
None of three Koreans spoke as the two policemen handcuffed them behind their backs.
"Let's set a record booking 'em," said the burly man. pushing the two young men toward the door. "Iris and I have an appointment with Father Parker about the wedding."
"You could've told me earlier," said Lieberman, removing his apron and pocketing the tape recorder.
"Slipped my mind," said Hanrahan.
"Slipped his mind." Lieberman said to the bespectacled young man as if they were friend. "You believe that?"
The young man said nothing as Lieberman guided him around the counter and had him join his partners at the front door. The young man was known only as Kim to his small gang and to the Korean businessmen he robbed. Kim's goals in life were to look as dry as Clint Eastwood and as cool as a young Robert Mitchum and to become very wealthy and respected. He and his gang had been at this extortion game for almost a year. They had done well. Until now. Kim was humiliated, beaten by a skinny old man.
"I'll get the car," Hanrahan said, putting his gun back in the holster under his jacket.
"I'll entertain our visitors," said Lieberman.
Hanrahan opened the door, looked at the downpour and turned to say, "I'll have the door open. Get 'em in fast."
"Like the Flash," said Lieberman, and his partner dashed out into the rain. "You know the Flash?"
The question was directed at the three handcuffed young men. The one nearest Lieberman was having trouble keeping his glasses on his nose with his hands cuffed behind him.
"The Flash was in the comics," said Lieberman with a sigh at the lack of education of the young. "When I was a kid he wore a tin helmet with wings, like Mercury. Then they stuck him in a tight red suit."
The Koreans seemed even more bewildered.
"OK now?" came a timid voice behind Lieberman.
"OK now," Lieberman answered.
From the kitchen two people emerged. Park and his wife. They were in their fifties and held back in fear, not completely sure that what they had done was the right thing.
"We will talk again," the young man in glasses said to the couple.
"That would be a bad idea," Lieberman said, moving to Kim's side. He moved close enough to whisper in the man's ear. "Much to my regret and in the hope that God has forgi...
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Book Description Forge Books, 2000. Paperback. Condition: New. Seller Inventory # DADAX0812575334
Book Description Forge Books, 2000. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0812575334
Book Description Forge Books, 2000. Mass Market Paperback. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P110812575334
Book Description Forge Books, 2000. Mass Market Paperback. Condition: New. Brand New!. Seller Inventory # VIB0812575334