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CHAPTER ONE

New York City

April 14, 1941

 

I entered Central Park through The Merchant’s Gate at Columbus Circle. In the daytime, especially on weekends, children screamed and ran through the Gate on their way to the Heckscher playground. Now it was getting to dusk, the dark side of twilight, and there were few people wandering around.

I stopped when I heard the sound. There was a cry off to my left. I first thought it was a wounded animal, but then it happened again and I realized it was someone in trouble.

I started walking quickly. I wasn’t sure where I was going. A memory of a sound isn’t a useful compass. The sound haunted me, so I began to run.

There it was again. It was the sound of pain and fear.

Then I saw them. Two men wearing silver shirts and blue ties. The shirts had the scarlet letter L over the heart. The men also had blue corduroy trousers. One of the men was kicking a young woman. He was the bigger one, with blond hair so short he almost looked as though he had shaved his head. His eyes had a hunger for blood.

I moved toward them.

The blond man was screaming at the small woman on the ground. She was trying to protect herself by bringing her arms and legs as close as she could to her body and putting her hands over her face.

“Say it again,” the man yelled. “Tell us you’re a dirty Jew.” He kicked her in the ribs.

I was close enough now.

“Stop it,” I yelled to them. “Leave her alone.”

The blond man looked up at me. He had the smile of a hunter. He couldn’t have been older than twenty.

“We’re just cleaning up the garbage, mister. We don’t want no dogs or Jews in the Park. Not that you can always tell the difference. Move along before we clean you up too.”

“You can get rid of the garbage if you leave.”

The blond man wasn’t exactly sure if I had insulted him.

“It’s none of your business, mister. The Silver Shirts of New York will make this city safe for real Americans.”

“By kicking young women?”

He shrugged.

I took two steps closer to them.

“Don’t come closer, mister,” the other man said. He had dark hair. His face was more hesitant. He wasn’t sure he was supposed to be there.

The blond man took a step toward me. “We got plenty of fight in us, mister. We like to hurt people.”

“Then punch each other.”

“You’re a wise guy, ain’t you? You must be a Jew with that big mouth.”

I smiled and reached with my left hand for the brim of my fedora. I adjusted it, making sure their eyes had followed me. When they stopped looking at the hat, they noticed that I suddenly had a revolver in my right hand.

“You lose a kneecap, you’ll have trouble walking in the Nazi parades,” I said.

The blond took another step toward me, but the other one looked into my eyes. He saw that I wanted to shoot them.

“Let’s go,” he said to the blond man.

The blond man stared at me. “Pretty soon Hitler’s boys will be landing here. Let’s see you be a wise guy to them.”

“You’ve got me shaking. I’m going to shoot if you’re still here in ten seconds.”

They walked away, deliberately going slowly.

I went over to the woman and bent down.

She looked up at me and did her best to smile. “That was pretty brave, mister.”

“No,” I said. “You were the one who was brave.”

“No I wasn’t. They told me they would kick me harder if I didn’t say my name was ‘Dirty Jew.’” She looked down. The next sound came out in a whisper. “I said it.”

“That’s how you live to fight another day.”

She stared at me. “Thanks for understanding.”

I nodded.

“Can you walk?”

“I’m not sure,” she said.

I helped her up, but she collapsed back on the ground.

“I don’t even think I can stand, mister.”

“Then I’m going to have to carry you out of here.”

She looked up. “Okay. It turns out that you’re lucky.”

“How do you figure that?” I asked.

“I had a light dinner.”

We both laughed.

I picked her up and began walking.

“This was easier when I was a younger man,” I said.

“You’re doing pretty well. And you look young to me.”

My arms felt as though they were on fire, and my knees almost buckled.

I had to stop twice.

“What’s your name, mister?”

“Charlie Singer.”

She nodded.

“I’m Hannah Levinsky. I was stupid to walk in the Park, wasn’t I?”

“You’re entitled to walk wherever you want. But maybe you should want to walk where there are more people.”

We got to the entrance. I put her down on a bench and got a cab. Then I carried her over.

“The nearest hospital,” I said to the driver.

“No, please,” she said. Her voice was desperate. “No hospital.”

“You need a doctor.”

“I’ll be all right. Really.”

I gave the driver my address.

When we got there, I told the driver to wait. I went to the door to get the assistance of Russ Fante, who worked with me.

Russ and I carried her up the stairs and inside.

“I don’t want a doctor,” she said.

“There’s no choice,” I said. “You could be really hurt.”

She hesitated and then nodded slowly.

I called a doctor I knew and asked him to come over. He was the kind of doctor I liked. He didn’t ask any questions.

“This is a nice home,” Hannah said. “It’s big.”

“There are other people who here as well,” I said. “They’re out now.”

She nodded.

“Mr. Singer, do you mind if I ask what it is you do? I mean the gun and all.”

“I’m a detective, Hannah. The pistol is legal.”

“I don’t much care about whether it was legal. It sure was useful.”

She paused.

“They’re getting bigger, aren’t they? I mean the Silver Shirts.”

“Not around the country. They’re shrinking everywhere. But New York is different. They have a leader here who knows how to recruit and make trouble.”

She nodded. “I read about him. Heinrich somebody.”

“Heinrich Gruen,” I said. “He’s causing a lot of problems.”

“Not everyone would stick up for a Jewish woman in trouble,” she said.

I didn’t answer her.

The doctor arrived and examined her. He taped her ribs.

“You have a room where she can stay for the night?”

“We have one left in the Singer Hotel.”

“Good.”

Russ carried her to the elevator and he, the doctor, and Hannah went up to the room. Then the doctor came back down to speak with me.

“It’s a dumb word to use, but she was lucky. Nothing’s broken. A few more kicks would have really done damage. I gave her some pills to sleep. She said she had to make a phone call first. She can leave in the morning if she feels all right.”

I paid him more than he asked for, and the doctor left.

I went to see Hannah.

“I feel groggy,” she said.

“The doctor told me you’re going to be fine.”

“Thanks to you, Mr. Singer.” She paused. “Are you really a detective or did you make that up?”

“I really am.”

“The kind of detective that takes cases.”

“Are you in trouble?”

“Oh, heaven’s no. It’s not me. It’s a neighbor across the street. Somebody has got to help her.”

“What happened?”

She was silent.

I looked at her, but she was already asleep.

Fante came into the room.

“You’ve got to stop saving strays, Charlie.”

“Two Silver Shirts were beating her.”

“I wish I had been there. Then they would have had silver and red shirts.”

“This is some world, Russ.”

I hesitated.

“She said she had a case for us.”

Russ stared at me. His stare looks more like a glare. “She doesn’t look like she can pay us very much.”

“I know. Life would be so much easier if only rich people got into trouble.”

“That would be my choice. We’re going to help her, aren’t we, Charlie?”

“Somebody’s got to. People like her need our help more than some wealthy banker. Especially now.”

“Those Silver Shirt guys got to you, didn’t they?”

“Yes,” I said. “They did get to me.”

“Fair enough.”

“Let’s see what she wants, Russ. Maybe it will be an interesting case.”

CHAPTER TWO

I live in a double wide brownstone on West 76th Street. There are four steps in front. Sometimes in the summer, I sit on the steps and watch people going by. Children in the neighborhood know if they say hello, I’ll give them a quarter. My valet Wynton collects the quarters for me in the morning before I sit outside. Sometimes a child will come back to try for a second quarter. I smile, give the child a stern lecture on greed and then hand over the quarter. But the rules start over the next day. Some children came over every day. I gave the ones with families that needed money a dollar or two.

It’s a nice house. There is a large hall with a dark crimson carpet. The coat rack is on the right. The first floor consists of a kitchen, dining room, and office. The stairs right after the coat rack lead up to the second and third floors.

Hannah had slept late. She came downstairs and Wynton sent her into the office.

She looked much better. She had small, dark features.

I smiled at her. “Wynton will get you whatever you’d like to eat, Hannah.”

“No, thanks. I’ll eat when I get home.”

I paused and looked at her.

“You keep kosher, don’t you?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Wynton,” I called. I asked him to call our friend who owned a kosher restaurant. “Get some of everything. What do you want Hannah?”

“Some lox and cream cheese on a bagel and I’d be in Heaven.”

“I can’t promise Heaven, but no one starves here,” I said.

Wynton left, and Hannah said, “He’s a very nice man, but isn’t he a bit old to be going up and down all those stairs?”

I laughed. “Wynton will live to be a hundred and twenty. I did have to build an elevator just for him though. He lives in the basement in the best room in the house. He doesn’t climb any stairs. Wynton has been with me…”

Just then Katie came into the room, nodded, and sat in her favorite soft leather chair.

“Hannah, this is Katie Walker, my partner in the detective business.”

They nodded to each other.

Russ Fante came in and took his seat.

“Hannah, the food will be here soon. Why don’t you tell us about what you wish us to investigate?”

“I don’t know a lot. I have neighbors across the street. The Blumenfelds. They’ve been very nice. They were the first ones to come over when we moved into the neighborhood.”

“Get on with it. What happened to them?” Russ’ question came out like an order.

Hannah looked down.

I looked at Russ, but I didn’t say anything.

“Mr. Blumenfeld was killed last week. Shot dead in Central Park.”

I tried to make my voice sound soft. “Is that why you were there last night?”

Hannah nodded. “You don’t have to tell me. I know it was really stupid. I work during the day. I went over to find where Mr. Blumenfeld had been shot. I thought maybe there was some clue there. I realize how I sound.”

“You sound like a kind, caring neighbor,” I said.

She smiled.

Russ said, “You should leave murder to the cops.”

“I know,” Hannah said. “Only…”

“Go ahead, Hannah,” I said. “We want to listen.”

“First of all, the police were polite about it. But they have no leads, no ideas. I think they’ve moved on to other murders.”

“What was Mr. Blumenfeld’s first name, Hannah?”

“Solomon. Sol. He was a jeweler, I think. Or he sold jewelry or traded it. Something in the jewelry business.” She hesitated. “He was mostly a kind and quiet man. Except about the Nazis. He was really scared. He once told my father that he thought the Nazis would get Japan to attack us as a warning to stay out of the European War and when Hitler conquered Britain and Russia he would come after us. It was like Mr. Blumenfeld had this vision of the future and it really frightened him.”

The food came, and we all took time out to eat.

When Hannah finished, she looked around to see if we were all done. Then she said, “Mrs. Blumenfeld just finished sitting shiva. It’s like she’s paralyzed. They have one son, but he lives in Chicago. I feel so bad for her. Please, Mr. Singer. Please. Find the killer. That will help the whole neighborhood get on in life.”

Katie said, “Hannah, Mr. Singer told us the whole story about the Park this morning. One part has me curious. Why didn’t you want to go to the hospital?”

“I…It’s Miss Walker?”

“Katie.”

“This is embarrassing.”

“Then I withdraw my question,” Katie said.

“No. You asked. It’s a fair question. And I’m asking you for a big favor. You should be able to ask me anything you want.”

She hesitated.

“I’m Orthodox, Katie. Very Orthodox. We believe in modesty. No doctor has ever seen me until last night. No man is allowed to see me in an immodest manner. Anyway, I couldn’t eat the food in a hospital. It isn’t kosher. I had trouble even her. You were all kind enough to make sure the food was kosher, But I couldn’t wash my hands before eating or say the right prayers. It sounds like it’s hard to be Orthodox, but I find it liberating. It is difficult to be part of the wider world.”

Hannah paused. “There’s another reason I didn’t want to go to the hospital. I was scared. I knew my parents would panic. My father is a rabbi. He has enough to worry about now without me adding to his troubles.”

“I’m sorry,” Katie said. “I didn’t mean to make it difficult for you.”

Hannah nodded.

“I...I don’t know how much money I can pay you, Mr. Singer. I don’t have a lot saved. But I’ll give you what I have. I just want to help poor Mrs. Blumenfeld.”

“It’s all right, Hannah. I don’t do this for money.”

Russ moaned.

I ignored him and smiled at Hannah. “Let us discuss this among ourselves, and I’ll get back to you. But you’ll have to leave your name and your address and phone number.”

“My address? Oh. Mr. Singer, I don’t want to involve my parents. I don’t think they’d want me going outside the neighborhood.”

Katie said, “Won’t they ask why you weren’t home last night?”

“I called them from here just before I took the pills the doctor gave me. I told them I was with a friend. I don’t like to lie to my father, but I did it for his health. He is very weak and worrying about me is not good for him.”

I nodded. “Hannah, you call me tonight. We’ll do what we can not to worry your parents. Wynton will give you a card with our number. I’ll tell you what we will do next.”

Katie stood up. “And take all the food we’ve got here with you.”

“Oh, I couldn’t.”

“Your parents will think you have a very kind friend.”

Hannah nodded. Wynton helped her pack the food and gave her one of my calling cards. Then she said good-bye to everyone and left.

Katie, Russ, and I got coffee and sat again in the office.

“I’ll start,” Russ said. “She has no facts the cops don’t have and they evidently couldn’t get anywhere. If she knew something they didn’t, maybe, and only maybe, we could look. But she has nothing. Including money.”

“Katie?”

“I like her. Maybe we owe her for what she went through in the park. Only, Mr. Singer, Russ is right. We have nothing. Just the name of the victim. It’s a killing in New York. He worked with jewelry. It was probably a robbery, and the thief panicked. I doubt the cops will ever catch that thief. And I doubt that we can.”

Katie was staring at me. That meant she wanted to say something but was worried about my reaction.

“Katie, you look like you have something to say.”

“Two things, Mr. Singer. I’m hesitant about both.”

I just waited.

“I know the last time I tried to write a novel, I got us all in trouble. But I want to try again. I don’t think I can investigate and write. Which do you want me to do?”

“Write. That’s where your heart is. You’ll resent me at some level if I stop you.”

“Oh, no. I mean we’re partners in this business. I…”

“You write, Katie. There’s not even a case yet. If we need you, maybe you can take a few hours off writing and help out.”

She nodded. Then she paused.

“The second part is a question, Mr. Singer. It’s not my place to ask it.”

“You’re my business partner, Katie. No question is off limits.”

A quick nod.

“Okay. I only wondered, Mr. Singer. Why didn’t you tell Hannah that you were Jewish? In fact now that I think of it, you haven’t mentioned it at all recently.”

I felt my face turning warm.

“I don’t know, Katie. I’m not trying to evade your question. Being Jewish is harder now than it used to be.”

“That’s the Nazis for you,” Russ said.

“It’s not just the Nazis, Russ,” I said. “I read the polls. Americans think Jews are a greater threat to the United States than any other group. I guess all that hatred piled up inside me.”

“We’re with you, Mr. Singer.”

“Thanks Katie.”

I was quiet for a few seconds, and then said, “Let’s go back to the case. What do we do?”

Katie shrugged. “What do you want to do, Mr. Singer?”

“I think you’re both right. We should probably forget it.”

“I recognize that tone,” Russ said. “Let’s now hear why in fact you’re not going to forget it at all.”

“Look,” I said. “Let’s keep this simple. I’ll check with Jack Flynn. A homicide detective will maybe have some information he didn’t tell anyone. Jack will tell me if there’s anything to this. If not we’ll walk away. Agreed?”

“I like the walking away part,” Russ said. “I don’t like using a detective’s time for no purpose. But all right. Only because of the Silver Shirts of New York.”

“I like your idea, Mr. Singer,” Katie said.

She took a sip of coffee. “You know, Mr. Singer, I think there’s some story in all this. I’ll probably regret not helping out.”

I smiled at her.

Then I got up to call Jack Flynn and made an appointment.

Hannah called later, and I told her we were going to take a look.

I thought I heard her crying.

CHAPTER THREE

“Where did you hear about Blumenfeld, Charlie?”

Jack Flynn was in his office. The way he ate pastrami sandwiches, he should weigh three hundred pounds. If you were a criminal and didn’t know Jack, you’d think that behind that simple, not extraordinarily attractive, face was an empty-headed idiot. You’d think that right up to the moment he arrested you.

I told Jack about Hannah Levinsky and her neighbor.

“You really went around Central Park waving a pistol.”

“They were the Silver Shirts of New York.”

“You should have shot them both. You’d make my life easier. Heinrich Gruen is a real danger to the city. But he’s successful at the evil he does. The man seems to always fall uphill. He’s getting followers. Someday there’s going to be even more trouble than there is now.”

I nodded and said, “And Mr. Blumenfeld, Jack?”

“Walk away, Charlie.”

I hesitated.

“Why?”

“Because something is going on. I don’t know what it is exactly. But you don’t want to get in the middle of it.”

“It’s terrifying how well you know me, Jack. You tell me to walk away. You know very well that I won’t do that. Instead, I’ll get more and more curious and never let go. So let’s skip the waiting part. Go ahead. Tell me.”

“It’s a potential bombshell. I’m not kidding about this, Charlie. If you’re smart you won’t get involved. Personally, I’m glad you’re not too smart and will get involved because the truth is you might get to places the cops can’t.”

“You want to tell me what you’re talking about, Jack?”

“Your crew knows how to keep quiet. I’ll give you all that. But this might turn out to be TNT, Charlie. I really don’t know whether I can be fully open.”

“Jack. You’re talking to me. Just say it.”

Flynn hesitated for a few seconds. “All right. So, you know this Sol Blumenfeld got himself shot and you know he was a jeweler. And you know he was Jewish.”

“Yes. I do know this.”

“Okay.”

Jack was searching his mind to pick out the right words to say.. He wasn’t usually like that at all. Normally, his words came spilling out.

“There are two other dead men,” he said. Then a sigh. “I think the cases are related. They’re all Jews, Charlie. The three of them. Shot with the same pistol.”

“Did the men know each other? Say, belong to the same synagogue? Club?”

“We can’t find any connection at all besides being shot, presumably by the same person. They didn’t live near each other. They don’t seem connected in any way.”

Jack sipped some coffee.

“We’d like to think it’s just a serial murderer who’s an anti-Semite.”

“That’s what you’d like to think, Jack?”

He nodded.

“Because the alternative is that the Silver Shirts of New York or, and I shudder as I say this, Charlie, or even the Nazis are involved. Then I’m over my head. Way over. I didn’t want to ask any civilians, but if you want to get involved quietly, focusing on Blumenfeld and not mentioning the other victims unless you have to or if it would be useful, I’d appreciate it.”

Jack reached into his desk drawer and pulled out a piece of paper.

“Names, addresses, and phone numbers of the three victims. Tread lightly, Charlie. I mean it. We don’t know what we’re dealing with.”

“What do you know about the Blumenfeld killing?”

“Literally nothing. He was in Central Park. He was shot. Some people found him. That’s what we know.”

“He still have his wallet on him?”

“Yes. But no money. But we’re not even sure if the killer took it. Maybe a good citizen came along, figured the dead guy didn’t have much use for cash, and took it.”

“You looked at the wife?”

“The wife. The partner. The family. This was a quiet guy.”

“Who hated the Nazis.”

“Yes. That’s not exactly a major clue, Charlie. A sixty-eight year old Jew hates the Nazis. Stop the presses. There’s a headline for the Times. I’m telling you. There’s nothing. No one can figure a motive other than the obvious. And we can’t find a suspect.”

“And the other victims?”

“The same. It’s like they were cousins, only they didn’t know each other.”

“So, how am I supposed to start, Jack?”

“I have no idea. That’s why I’m allowing you to come to the party. We need fresh eyes. We need someone with better connections to the Jewish community than the police have. We need someone who’s not a cop, someone that the victim’s families can trust. We need someone smart. That’s why we want Katie. I guess we have to include you if we take her. Seriously, we’re lost, Charlie. Every day, I have to invent new ways to tell my captain how much progress we’re making. So far Jewish community leaders haven’t put together the connection among the three men. Thank the Lord, neither have the papers. If they find out, it’s over for us. I was hesitant to call you, Charlie, but I’m glad you found your way here on your own.”

I figured I wouldn’t disappoint Jack by telling him Katie wasn’t going to be involved. He had been kidding me, but he really trusted her, especially in talking to victims.

“Can I get copies of the files? I want to read the interview notes. You’re right. Maybe a fresh look will help.”

“Sure. I’ll get those to you. And Charlie?”

“Yes.”

“It would be nice if you solved this yesterday.”

“I’ll do my best. I’m worried about what you said, Jack. We don’t even know what we’re involved with.”

“Someone targeting Jews. That’s the start of it. In the world right now, Charlie, that is as messy and dangerous a story as there is. We have Lindbergh arguing for a treaty with the Nazis. We have the Silver Shirts of New York. We have too many people who think Jews have too much power or money. Who just plain don’t like Jews. It’s at the edge of a possible disaster, Charlie.”

“I’ll do my best, Jack. You do realize I have to tell everyone I work with.”

“I know. Like I said, I think they’re all trustworthy. I think they can all keep their mouths shut. Except that dreadful Miss Boswell.”

“She owns the agency, Charlie. I have to tell her. And she knows everyone. I need her help. In fact, I was going to see her first for some ideas.”

“Just because she thinks she’s the world’s greatest mystery writer doesn’t mean she can solve any crime.”

“She sells a lot of books, Jack. Maybe not as many as Agatha Christie, but everyone knows her. And she knows everyone.”

“Can she keep this quiet, Charlie? That woman has the biggest mouth of anyone I’ve ever met.”

“She’s not shy. I admit that. But she can keep a secret.”

“I hope you’re right, Charlie. I really do. I’ll have one of my men deliver copies of all the files to Wynton later this afternoon.”

“Good.”

I got up to leave.

“Charlie.”

I turned back to face him.

“I mean it. Be careful. I don’t think we’re dealing with an average dumb criminal here. It’s bigger. Maybe very big. I don’t want to have to search for your killer.”

“I’ll be careful, daddy.”

Jack made some sort of disapproving sound.

I went outside to call Miss Boswell.

CHAPTER FOUR

I was half a block from Miss Boswell’s house when I saw a tall, angular man with a tanned face and dark, curly hair walk out the front door. He had the most determined face of anyone I’ve ever seen. He wore a long coat and was carrying a briefcase. I know everyone who works with Miss Boswell including her literary agent and her editor, but I didn’t know him. He turned and briskly walked toward me. I tried to look at him but he deliberately avoided my glance. I had the strangest feeling that, despite the fact that I had, to the best of my memory, never seen him before, he looked as though he could be my relative. Or partly like a relative and partly not at all like a relative.

I went inside the house, waited until Miss Boswell was ready, and presented the story of Hannah Levinsky and the information Jack Flynn had provided me. She listened patiently, though her body moved with discomfort when I described the Silver Shirts of New York.

When I had finished, Miss Boswell steepled her fingers, puckered her lips, and said to me, “It is difficult to determine which is of less collective intelligence, the members of the New York City Police Department or the inhabitants of the zoo in Central Park”

“Miss Boswell, please. We need the police on a lot of cases. I know them. I’ve worked with them. Some of their detectives are brilliant. We need their help and experience. I want your permission to accept this one.”

Her face was grim. “Not only do you have my permission, Mr. Singer, but I insist we take the case. I will cover any extra expenses. You are not to spare costs.”

I looked at her. I think my jaw dropped open.

“I have to say I’m surprised, Miss Boswell. You usually are reluctant to take on a case without covering our costs.”

“Mr. Singer, you of all people should be aware of what is happening in Europe. Mr. Hitler conquered Poland in September 1939. Insufficiently satisfied to destroy one nation, he occupied Denmark in April 1940, Norway in the same month. In May it was Belgium and the Netherlands and Luxembourg and France. And still, Mr. Hitler was not satisfied. This month he takes Yugoslavia and Greece. He seems unstoppable. I daresay he has his eyes on the Soviet Union. If I were Mr. Stalin, I would be very concerned. Of course, Mr. Stalin has seven million men to throw at the Master Race so that should be quite a battle.” She looked down. “Mr. Singer, I have many Jewish friends in Europe. Their stories are so fantastic as to be considered the work of fevered imaginations. But these are bright and perceptive people. They do not see monsters in the dark. They see monsters in the light. Hitler is the worst monster we have ever seen. I will do whatever I can, whenever I can, to stop him. I would think you would feel the same way.”

My face reddened.

I gathered some strength up and spoke. “I feel very sorry for the Jews in Europe. But I don’t know what’s going on there. I don’t have your contacts, Miss Boswell.”

“Good God, Mr. Singer. These are your people. Start paying attention. It’s likely to get worse. If I know monsters, it will get much worse. And in Washington they won’t let Jewish refugees in.”

“Americans don’t want them.”

She slammed her fist on a side table.

“I know that. A leader doesn’t go by polls or what Mr. Lindbergh says or this America First organization or the Silver Shirts. A leader is humane. A leader sees around corners. A leader is bold. History will judge Mr. Roosevelt very badly on this issue of admitting Jewish refugees. It will judge all of us very badly.”

“Do you have any specific suggestions about the case?”

“You have to be discreet, but you have to start with the three widows. See what they tell you. It’s difficult for me to believe that these are random shootings, though they may be. If they are, Mr. Singer, our task is infinitely more difficult. In that case, our murderer picks people without knowing who they are or somehow knows they are Jewish and shoots them. You must focus and find a connection if there is one.”

She took a sip from her tea cup.

“I think perhaps Miss Walker should accompany you. She can get the widows to open up. Look at the victims’ rooms. Look at their correspondence. Look at who they gave money to, their friends.”

“Miss Walker is not available for this case, Miss Boswell.”

“Oh. I hope she has a life-threatening illness because that is the only excuse I will accept for her absence.”

“She’s writing a novel, or plans to anyway.”

“How wonderful because the world is putting all else aside waiting impatiently for a novel by Katie Walker.”

“You once wanted to do it, Miss Boswell. I thought you would understand her.”

“I have talent. She does not.”

“Why don’t you give her a chance?”

Miss Boswell made a dismissive gesture with her left hand.

“Then you talk to the widows. Perhaps Miss Walker will be kind enough to accompany you while she waits for the Muses to inspire her.”

“I’ll talk to the widows, Miss Boswell. But it’s possible that nothing is there to help.”

“Then, Mr. Singer, we are fighting a ghost filled with hatred.”

Another sip of tea.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

I started reading mysteries in childhood and never stopped. I like being taken to different times and strange places. It’s a way of cheating death and exploring lives I might have led. Along the way, I’ve worked in my father’s store, as an English professor, and an advisor to two members of Congress. I’ve written many books including a variety of historical mysteries. Writing is as exciting as reading because I’m never sure where I’m going to be on the next page.

Q. What draws you to this genre?
A.
I like mysteries because I enjoy the puzzle and the idea that justice will prevail. I like to identify with the protagonist, to take part in another person’s life. I enjoy historical mysteries because I can escape the present more fully, learn about the past, and feel what it was like to live then.
Q. When did you decide to become a writer?
A.
When I was 13, I got out the book Babbitt from the library because I mistakenly thought it was funny. I sat down to read it and was astounded at how much truth a writer could put on a page. I couldn’t give voice to it then, but that was the moment that my decision to write was born.
Q. Why do you write?
A.
I write because I enjoy playing with words the way someone else might enjoy tennis or taking photos. I like the feeling of discovering the right phrase or figuring out how a complex character might act.

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