Cover image for The big silence : an Abe Lieberman mystery
The big silence : an Abe Lieberman mystery
Kaminsky, Stuart M.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Forge, 2000.
Physical Description:
268 pages ; 22 cm
General Note:
"A Tom Doherty Associates book."
Geographic Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library X Adult Fiction Popular Materials-Mystery
Central Library X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
Newstead Library X Adult Fiction Mystery/Suspense
Concord Library X Adult Fiction Mystery/Suspense
Grand Island Library X Adult Fiction Mystery/Suspense
Lancaster Library X Adult Fiction Mystery/Suspense
Audubon Library X Adult Fiction Mystery/Suspense

On Order



Forge Books is delighted to announce the acquisition of the critically acclaimed Abe Lieberman mystery series by Edgar Award winner Stuart M. Kaminsky. The Washington Post calls Lieberman A figure out of Talmudic lore -- endearing, wise in his crotchets, weary with his wisdom.Abe Lieberman is a strong, sympathetic character, an Everyman whose love for his family is only matched by his quiet, zealous commitment to justice -- a commitment that is sorely tested on the mean streets of Chicago. A moral man, he is sometimes faced with ethical choices in order to see that justice is meted out.The Big Silence takes Lieberman and his Irish partner, Bill Hanrahan -- the Rabbi and the Priest, as they are known on the streets -- on a journey that will test their consciences to the limit. When the young son of an informant in a government witness protection program is kidnapped and a grisly death occurs, Lieberman and Hanrahan will have to make some hard choices to set things right.Told with compassion and a keen insight into the human psyche, The Big Silence is a gritty, compelling mystery.

Author Notes

Stuart M. Kaminsky is head of the radio/television/film department at Northwestern University in Illinois. He is also a writer of textbooks, screenplays, and mystery novels.

The more popular of his two series of detective novels features Toby Peters. Set in the 1930s and 1940s, the Peters books draw on Kaminsky's knowledge of history and love of film by incorporating characters from the film industry's past in nostalgic mysteries. Murder on the Yellow Brick Road (1978), for example, features Judy Garland while Catch a Falling Clown (1982) stars Emmett Kelley as Peters's client and Alfred Hitchcock as a murder suspect.

His other critically acclaimed series chronicles the cases of Inspector Porfiry Rostnikov. Kaminsky's detailed studies of Russian police procedure combined with aspects of life in Russia have earned the Series an Edgar nomination for Black Knight in Red Square (1984) and the 1989 Edgar Award for A Cold Red Sunrise (1988).

Stuart Kaminsky was born in Chicago in 1934 and died in 2009.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

A clock ticks on the life of a Mob squealer's son while the two Chicago cops trying to save his life are distracted by a stick-up team, scam artists, a mentally-ill ex-football star who is murdered, family responsibilities, weariness, guilt, and dicey digestion. In the latest addition to the Edgar-winning Kaminsky's Lieberman series, one of the cops, Detective Bill Hanrahan, goes on assignment to Cleveland to protect the wife and 17-year-old son of a Mob bookkeeper who has started to blab to the feds. The assignment goes haywire, with the bookkeeper's wife murdered and the son kidnapped. Hanrahan takes his load of guilt back to his partner, Abe Lieberman, who philosophically metes out advice to Hanrahan while dealing with a suicidal brother and disappointing daughter. The Lieberman mysteries, presenting messy lives and troubled memories, are intriguing mysteries of character, as much about solving moral problems as they are about solving crimes. --Connie Fletcher

Publisher's Weekly Review

Versatile, prolific and reliable, Kaminsky seldom disappoints, whether spinning a tale about his Russian policeman (Porfiry Rostnikov), private eye to the stars (Toby Peters) or Chicago policeman Abe Lieberman. Here Lieberman and his Irish partner, Bill Hanrahan, known to colleagues as "the Rabbi and the Priest," have to handle an onslaught of personal and professional crises. Hanrahan, a former football lineman who missed out on a pro career because of bad knees, is nearly suicidal over a blown assignment that resulted in a kidnapping and murder. Lieberman, a slight, 60ish career policeman, juggles a pair of bothersome cases and a pair of family crises on top of shouldering some of Hanrahan's burden as a partner should. Drawing on Chicago's cultural diversity, Kaminsky enriches the story with a range of Jewish, Irish-Catholic, Korean, African-American, Hispanic and other ethnic characters. In his world-weary, wise and compassionate way, Lieberman uses every tool at his command, from common sense to favors traded as readily with a gang leader as with another cop. Crimes are not so much solved as resolved. And the partnerships Lieberman has forged with his compatriotsDbe they relatives, police officers, suspects or citizensDmake the resolutions and the process of achieving them a joy to follow. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



CHAPTER 1 Bill Hanrahan had been in Cleveland only once before. That was about ten years ago, when he and Maureen were still married. A Cleveland cop, a detective named Morello, had remembered when Bill was a young football hero with bad knees that had kept him out of the pros. Three decades ago Hardrock Hanrahan had been the fastest lineman on the Chicago Vocational High School football team. Dick Butkus, who had graduated from CVS a few years later, told Bill at a reunion that Hardrock had been an inspiration to him. And then the knee went in a practice game and so did the speed and any chance at Notre Dame or Illinois or even Wisconsin. He lasted two years at Southern Illinois University and managed a Parade magazine second team Ail-American spot. But the knees wouldn't hold. He gave up to join his father as a Chicago cop, as his father had joined his grandfather before him. Morello, who followed college football down to the Division III teams, found out that Hanrahan was passing through to Chicago and had a few hours between planes. Morello, a guy in his late fifties maybe, with lots of dyed too-black hair and the face of a Coke can run over by an eighteen-wheeler, had driven through Cleveland showing Hanrahan the sights, apologizing here, showing pride there. Hanrahan, who had been drinking hard then and hated flying, would have preferred being in the airport bar, but he couldn't hurt the man's feelings. So he had seen Cleveland and had a few drinks on the plane. Morello was dead now, his name on a plaque. Line of duty. Shot by a sixteen-year-old drug dealer in a stolen car. According to Morello's partner, the detective's last word was "son" before the kid in the car shot him in the face. Morello's partner had shot the kid four times. The kid died. Morello's partner had faced charges and been put on unpaid leave for sixty days. Now Detective Bill Hanrahan was back in Cleveland, but he wasn't going to have time for any sightseeing. His knees were no better but he was sober and meant to stay that way. He had gone to AA after he had let an informant die while he was drunk in a restaurant across from her apartment building. Hanrahan's partner, Abe Lieberman, had covered for him, but Hanrahan had been a Catholic, a lapsed one to be sure, and guilt was his lot. A few years later he had seriously considered sliding back to the bottle when he killed a young lunatic named Frankie Kraylaw whose wife and child he had been protecting in his house. Hanrahan had set up the lunatic and lured him to the house, knowing that if he had not killed the man, the man would surely have killed the young woman and the boy. With the help of a young Catholic priest, AA, Iris Chen, and his partner, Abe Lieberman, Bill had slowly, shakily come through it still carrying guilt. Now the divorce from Maureen was complete and Bill Hanrahan hoped and expected to marry Iris Chen in a few months. He was also slowly and with some caution returning to the church. The assignment he was on was Captain Kearney's way of giving Hanrahan a few days away from the city, away from the reminders of the past. It was early October. A bit cold for fall in Ohio. Hanrahan had watched the Weather Channel and was prepared with the zippered lined jacket Iris had given him. The job was simple, even boring. He sat in the car he had rented, heater on low, radio on an oldies station he had found by pushing the right button. The Beatles were singing "Help." Hanrahan was a burly man who looked like a cop and didn't find it easy to hide, but that wasn't a problem on this one. Back in Chicago a mob witness, an accountant named Mickey Gornitz, had agreed to talk about his boss's highly illegal operation, but only to Hanrahan's partner, Abe Lieberman, with whom Gornitz had gone to Marshall High School. No surprise. Abe was easy to talk to, and Abe and his brother had been basketball stars in a basketball school. Articles had been written about the brothers, who were both starting guards on the same team, a team that won the city championship the three years they played. Besides talking to Lieberman, Gornitz had several conditions. One was that his ex-wife and his seventeen-year-old son should be protected until Mickey finished testifying and went into witness protection. The assistant Cook County state attorney didn't think it was necessary. Gornitz hadn't seen his wife or son in fifteen years, when she had walked out on him, changed her name and the boy's, and moved to Boston. Mickey hadn't spoken to either his son or his ex-wife since they went out the door, but he had sent her money, Plenty of it. The assistant state attorney gave in. This was a big case and watching a couple of people, humoring his witness, was a small price to pay. A Boston cop named Persky, weary and yawning, had come on the flight to Cleveland from Boston with Gornitz's ex and the kid. They didn't know he was there. Persky knew a Chicago cop was going to take over, and he had found Hanrahan waiting for him when the crowd came off the plane. Hanrahan had shown the man his ID, but Persky had waved it away, saying "They're yours. I'm headin' for the bar. Got a plane back home in about an hour." So they were Hanrahan's. He had a recent photograph of the woman and the boy. They were easy to spot. She was about Hanrahan's age, in good shape, not bad looking if a little hard around the edges and a little loud. The kid was little, thin, and wore a gray sports jacket, tie, and slacks. His hair was dark and combed straight back. He was wearing glasses and looked like a classic case of what Lieberman's grandson called "the nerds." Hanrahan had done his footwork before they arrived. The Boston and Cleveland police had helped. The mother and son had a rental car waiting. They were on their way for a trip to four colleges in Ohio that were all interested in the boy, who was a straight A student with an interest in computers and theoretical mathematics. Hanrahan had their itinerary from the Boston police and had made reservations at the same motels as the mother, Louise Firth, and her son, Matthew. No trouble. They would make their rounds in three days, wind up at a motel in Dayton near the airport, and catch a plane back to Boston where Persky or someone would be there to meet them. It was almost a minivacation on the State of Illinois. Football on television at night with his shoes off, dinner watching the mother and son--at a table discreetly far away--back to bed and early to rise, providing Mom and son didn't decide to take in a movie. Hanrahan followed the pair in front of him to baggage claim. He had only a carry-on. A skycap helped the woman and boy to the Hertz minibus, and Hanrahan got back in his rented car parked illegally at the curb and followed them. Now he sat outside the Hertz gate listening to "When My Dream Boat Comes Home" by Louis Prima and Keely Smith. First day went easy. About forty miles to Oberlin, tour around the campus with Hanrahan a safe hundred yards behind, back to administration for talk, and on to the motel where he had a room next to mother and son. Because of his size, Hanrahan had learned a great deal about being inconspicuous. Most of it depended on staying as far back as possible and never doing anything to call attention to himself. It was especially easy when the people he was following had no reason to think they were being followed. Like today. In any case, knowing that they were going to colleges, Hanrahan had brought his briefcase, which he found dust-covered in the back of the bedroom closet. He filled it with papers, wore his suit, and tried to look like a college professor. Food the first day was ribs. Drink was diet root beer. It was a Monday. The Bears were playing the Bucs silently over at the bar, and a juke box played Sinatra. The mother and son ate, looked like they had a disagreement about something small, and went right to the motel with Hanrahan behind them. He was up well before them the next morning and had already eaten when they came down. He read the paper in the lobby to find out what, if anything, the Cleveland Plain Dealer said about the game. Hanrahan had watched. The Bears had lost, again. And to the Bucs. The glory days of Payton, Butkus (Hanrahan's idol), MacMahon, and the rest were long gone. The next two days were about the same. Kenyon, Wooster, and finally Wittenberg. The campuses didn't look very different from each other. Small, right out of a movie about small colleges. Hanrahan liked Wooster best, but his experience had been at Southern back in Illinois, a state school already grown to the size of a small metropolis. These schools were no bigger than CVS, his old high school. After each tour and interviews, the son had come back to the oar burdened by catalogs, flyers, and copies of who-knows-what. The Wittenberg visit was last. Mother and son had gone to that motel near the Dayton airport, and Hanrahan had bedded down in the room next door. His plane was about two hours after theirs in the morning. The walls were thin in the motel, but not thin enough to hear what they were saying. They didn't seem to be arguing. Hanrahan would have been happier if the rooms had been on the second or third floor with no entry possible from the outside, but they were on the first. No big problem. The windows were thick and didn't open, and bushes, dense and deep, stood before each window. He was just a professional wanting everything to be right, which it was till just before three in the morning. Hanrahan leaped up at the sound, unsure of what he had heard. He looked at the television screen. A man was talking silently. No doubt about the second sound, a shot, followed by another. In shorts and a Southern Illinois T-shirt, Hanrahan fumbled for his .38, found it, went into the hall where a few brave souls were opening their doors. Hanrahan went for the door of the room next to his. When the curious in the hall saw the gun in the big man's hand, they retreated, closed and chained their doors. Hanrahan crashed his fist into the door once and shouted, "Open up. Police." He didn't expect an answer and didn't get one. Weapon held high, he threw his shoulder against the door. He tried three times, failed to budge it, and finally shot the lock open. It took two bullets. The lights were out and the light from the hallway sent a path of yellow to the nearest bed. Nothing moved. No one spoke. Crouched, Hanrahan went for the switch, which he assumed would be in the same place as the one in his room. It was. White light from the lamps on the table snapped on and Hanrahan pointed his weapon at the figure on the closest bed. It was clearly the mother though there wasn't much left of the top of her head and there was a hell of a lot of blood. She was wearing pink pajamas and a surprised look; her remaining eye was open. They didn't usually die with their eyes closed. Not like in the movies and on television. The second bed was empty. "Matthew?" Hanrahan said, looking around. No answer. The bathroom door was open. The room was empty. Hanrahan felt the night breeze from the broken window and stepped on a shard of glass. He knew what had happened before he could put it into words. He ran to the light switch, clicked the room back into darkness, and went for the window, ignoring the glass that cut into his bare calloused soles. The mother's rented Hertz car, which had been parked in a space a few cars down, was still there. He listened and thought he heard a car pulling out of the hotel parking lot. Hanrahan went through the window, plowed through the bushes, and ran, leaving a bloody trail of footprints. He was in reasonably good shape and didn't get winded easily, but the knees, the knees would make him pay later, the joints scraping against each other, the cartilage long gone. He didn't even think about or really feel the cuts or even anticipate the slings and arrows he would have to face from Kearney. When he reached the front of the motel, a large white car, maybe a Buick, pulled out of the lot onto the six-lane street that would be packed if it weren't the middle of the night. It was hopeless. By the time he threw on his pants and got to his car, whoever it was would be long gone in who knows what direction with the kid. On the way back to his room to call the airport and the state police, Hanrahan wanted a drink, wanted a drink so badly that he prayed silently for Jesus to show mercy and have a large double bourbon on his nightstand when he got back to his room. There was no bourbon, but there was a telephone and he followed procedure, feeling in his gut that some of Jimmy Stashall's coke-filled piss-heads had the boy and were heading with him toward someplace he felt was safe. Hanrahan had the feeling that place would be in or near Chicago. All feelings. Little thought. He had lost another witness. His job was supposed to have been easy. The stakes had been high, but the police had put the mother and son on low priority in spite of star witness Mickey Gornitz. And now... While he sat on the bed removing glass from his feet, two uniformed policemen suddenly appeared at his open motel room door. Their guns were drawn, their faces serious and scared. One of them looked at the bloody trail of bare foot-prints that led to the man seated on the bed who was pulling glass from the bottoms of his feet. Hanrahan figured they had visited the room next door. He figured they saw the .38 next to the big man sitting on the bed. He figured they took him for the killer. Well, so did Hanrahan. He put up his hands and said, "Hanrahan. Chicago police. Wallet's in my jacket. I just called in to the state police. Woman was with her kid. Someone took the kid." The uniformed cops had heard many stories, none this big. Their guns stayed out and focused. One of them checked Hanrahan's wallet and I.D. and said, "William Hanrahan? Aren't you the football player who--" Hanrahan stopped listening and supplied his own ending to the sentence. His ending wasn't filled with the admiration the cop was probably giving. It was supposed to have been easy. "Aren't you the cop who keeps fouling up," Hanrahan thought, and reached for the phone to call Chicago while the two cops who were way over their heads wished for someone to come fast and take over. Hanrahan hobbled to the bathroom, ignoring the pain. He would wash off his feet till the bleeding stopped and then bandage them as well as he could. Then he would put on two pairs of white sweat socks to cushion the pain. He didn't want to think about anything else. Not now. * * * "You're lucky," said the big man in the overalls to the ancient little woman in a white wig tilted slightly to the left. The big man was filling out papers at a dining room table across from the woman who kept offering him things--coffee, tea, cake, candy. The big man accepted some cake and coffee and finished making out the document. He examined it and handed it to the little woman, who kept putting her glasses on and taking them off to find the best way of reading what was in front of her. It really didn't matter. She had no way of understanding the complicated words written on page after page. But the big man with the smiling face had been very patient in explaining everything to her. "It's a good thing my assistant spotted your driveway, Mrs. Lawton," said the big man. "You were lucky. Another week, maybe even a day or two and it would have collapsed." "You don't think I should call my grandson in Houston?" she asked, looking at the confusing document before her. "Frankly, I think we should get started on that driveway tomorrow. I'll have to pull a few men off of other jobs, but this is an emergency. Don't worry. There won't be any extra charge." "Thank you," the woman said. "You said three thousand dollars?" "Total cost," the big man said. "You can pay it all up front. You've got my guarantee and I'll give you a receipt. I'm sure your check is good. If you want to put up two thousand till we finish..." "No," said the old woman, adjusting the front of her dark dress. "My husband knew how to do things like this. That's him." She pointed at a large photograph on the wall, a couple in their thirties. Both of the people in the picture stood erect, smiling. The man shorter than the woman. He was thin, wore a light-colored suit, and had a head of curly black hair. "A fine-looking man," the big man said, admiring the photograph. "A saint," the woman whispered reverently. "Didn't fool around. Worked hard his whole life. Never hit one of the kids. Never. Not once even when Tony took the car without permission." "Kids," said the big man. "Got two of my own." "That's nice," she said. "Don't hit them." "I won't." "More cake?" "Yes," he said. "About the check..." "Checks confuse me," Mrs. Lawton said. "I go to the bank. Make money orders from the Social Security or savings. My neighbor drives me once a week. I get enough cash for the week. Would it be all right if I gave you cash?" "That would be acceptable," said the big man, taking a plate of neatly cut coffee cake from the thin fingers of the old woman. "I wouldn't want to get you into tax trouble," she said. "I know Tony worries about that. He's a good boy. Busy. Wants me to live with in him in Houston, husband and I lived here all our lives. I'll live here till they carry me out." "Let's hope that's a long, long time from now." "Thank you," she said, holding up her coffee cup to drink. It took both her hands to hold the cup steady. "You were saying you have cash? The entire three thousand?" the big man asked with a warm smile. * * * " I don't like it ." "What?" "This Salt and Pepper shit." The young man on the sofa shrugged, started unwrapping his second sandwich, and kept his eyes on the television where Michael J. Fox stood with a perplexed look on his face while the sound track gave off laughter. "This show ain't funny," the young man on the couch said. The man on the couch was named Irwin Saviello--Jewish mother, Italian father. Irwin was big and burly--heredity, but he also worked out. The papers and the television had been calling them-Salt and Pepper for the last two months. Irwin, who was thirty-one and had a baby face, sort of liked it. His partner, Antoine Dodson, Pepper, was black, his head shaven. He shared Michael Jordan's birthday and wanted to look like the superstar. The truth was he looked more like a bald, nervous version of Richard Pryor on crack, which Antoine used as well as whatever he could get. Saviello, on the other hand, was clean, always had been. The two men had met in prison. Dodson had been doing time for breaking and entering. Saviello had been sitting in his cell for manslaughter, a fight in a supermarket in which he had thrown a man into the frozen fish display. The man had died. At the time, Irwin had not quite remembered what the fight had been about. His appointed attorney had told him and then had plea-bargained down to manslaughter. There was no doubt about who was the brains of the duo. It was Dodson, who had not only graduated from high school but had gone to the University of Illinois at Chicago Circle for a semester. Saviello had not quite made it through Austin High. Neither man had ever had an I.Q. test, but there was a note on each man's record saying that Dodson probably had a high I.Q. and was definitely a sociopath. The note on Saviello was that he was at least slightly below the low end of normal in intelligence. Something had brought the two together. Saviello normally didn't like niggers, but he had met some decent ones in jail. None of them had messed with Irwin. Irwin was big. Irwin was strong. Irwin didn't mind fighting and didn't seem to mind getting hurt. He had once taken a makeshift knife in the back and kept fighting the two Mexicans who had attacked him on a clean-up detail. When the fight was over, Antoine had removed the knife, wiped it clean, and stuffed it in his shoe. Irwin had stoically gone to Doc Mirron, an inmate and a veterinarian on the outside, who took care of the wound. Irwin's rep had gone up. He hadn't gone to the infirmary. He hadn't complained, and though he should have been in pain, he was working and looking normal the next day. The fact that Antoine and Irwin got out on the same day made it easy for the two of them to just drift into a partnership. It was Antoine who hit on the idea of knocking off convenience stores. The clerks there were told to turn over their money, not fight back, and pray that they didn't get killed. The two would enter a 7-Eleven or something late when no other customers were there. Irwin would go in first, walk over to the counter, reach over, grab the clerk and hit him, hard, not hard enough to kill him, but hard enough to break a nose or a jaw. Antoine would follow, show his junk gun, a Raven MP-25 he had picked up on the street for forty-five dollars, and tell the reeling clerk to put all the money in a bag and give it to him fast or die. Since the weapon was so small, Antoine sometimes had to fire a shot into the ceiling or through a glass refrigerator window to convince the clerk to cooperate. While the clerk was moving, Irwin would climb up to the video camera and rip it out. Then he would go in the back room where the tape was recording and remove the tape and stuff it in the bag in his pocket. Later, he would throw the tape away. It had worked eight times. The money wasn't bad. The furnished room in Uptown wasn't bad, though the neighborhood stunk with druggies and drunks looking for small action or trouble. The television worked fine. The two men visited their parole officers regularly, each not saying that he was rooming with a former convict, and went out on job interviews when they were told to do so. Each man had a job, but they both knew they would be fired. It was what they wanted. "The system is so up to its ass in paper, bodies, and bullshit," Antoine said, "that they're letting assholes who rape kids out in two years for good behavior. Shit, sure they behave. There ain't any kids behind the bars. They're not gonna send us back 'cause we can't hold down a job."s That was all right with Irwin. Let Antoine do the thinking. Irwin sat in front of the television whenever he could. Now he was on his second sandwich. He had taken five from the store they had robbed that night. Irwin liked the tuna best He always took Twinkies, Little Debbie cakes, and anything sweet and wrapped he had time to grab. He liked unwrapping the cellophane. It was like getting a present. "Will you turn that shit off?" Antoine said, pacing the floor behind the sofa. While chewing on his sandwich in one hand, Irwin reached over and pushed a button on the remote. He didn't much care what he watched. Something that looked like it might be The X-Files came on. "Salt and Pepper," Antoine said, sitting in the chair near the sofa and draping one leg over it. "Shit, can't they come up with somethin' halfway original? Racist bastards." Irwin shrugged and watched the screen where a woman was turning into something that looked like a big white worm. "I'm goin' out," Antoine said. "Okay," Irwin said as the white thing slithered behind an unsuspecting security guard in a blue uniform. The guard was sitting at a desk with a night-light reading a book. Irwin had never been able to finish a book. He didn't think the guard was going to finish this one. The door closed. Antoine was gone. Irwin finished his sandwich and reached for the fourth one on the sofa next to him. * * * He was a mongrel with no name, born in an alley, the only one of the litter of four to survive. He had no memory of how he survived. He never thought about it. For him, life was simply staying alive. There were no dreams, no goals. He did have a small territory in two alleys that he protected. One was behind a run-down transient hotel off of Lawrence Avenue. It had once been a respectable place to stay, even a nearly prestigious place. But that was decades ago, long before the dog was born. Now there was the remnants of discarded meals in the alley at night, put out by an indifferent staff. The dog protected his right to the garbage from homeless cats, large rats, and, occasionally, another dog. Sometimes, though, when the humans were more careful with their garbage, he would have to roam for dark miles with cautious eyes. The dog's other main territory was behind an abandoned and boarded-up bread factory on Damen Avenue. It had been dosed for years, and the neighborhood was so rundown that no one had any interest in bothering to spend the money to tear it down. There was a loose board in the building's basement. The dog knew how to push it away so he could get inside and out of the worst of the winter cold. There were corners inside, small rooms, that were almost warm. The dog without a name slept during the day and roamed for food at night. He did not seek fights, but he did not hold back when he felt there was food or a female worth fighting for. He lived alone and had no instinct to find a permanent mate. He was a gray and black creature, a bit scrawny, and about average for dog height. One ear was almost gone, the result of a battle with a larger dog over a piece of hamburger. Were he ever brought in to the Humane Society, they would find it impossible to guess the many breeds that had gone into his creation, and there would be no chance that anyone would want the ugly creature. He saw humans abuse and steal from each other. He had seen them kill each other. They were the breed that ruled all space and time and were definitely to be avoided. On the two occasions when he couldn't avoid them, when they had trapped him for sport or possibly to eat him, the dog without a name had attacked. He had badly injured a man with foul-smelling clothes, had bitten his face and neck. The man had run bleeding and screaming. The dog had never gone back to that place again. His other encounter with a human had been more dangerous. This creature trapped him in a dead-end alley and held something in his hand and that had made a cracking sound and had spit something small, hard, and fast at the dog. The dog did not know how to cower. He had attacked the surprised man, leaped on him, knocked him down, and bitten at the hand and the spitting thing it held. The man screamed. Others were coming. The dog stopped his attack on the bloody mass that had been the man's hand. The man punched and tried to crawl away. The dog ran. People, the animals that ruled without sense or understanding, were to be avoided and hidden from during the day. That was the dog's rule, and it had helped keep him alive. And now, in darkness, a chill October wind ruffling his fur, he wandered. * * * It was nearly midnight when Rita Bliss, whose real name was Rita Blitzstein, cruised up and down Lunt in East Rogers Park just off Sheridan Road. She was tired. She was irritable, and someone had parked in the space for which she paid forty dollars a month. Parking in the neighborhood of six- and ten-story apartment buildings and older courtyard buildings three or four stories high was never good. At night it was nearly impossible. Rita had once spent an hour cruising for a space and finally parked in the gas station two blocks away and left a note on her windshield saying she'd be back early in the morning and pay for having parked there. The gas station proprietor, a Croatian immigrant, had charged her twenty dollars. He had a family to bring over, he explained, and he had been cheated on the price of the gas station, a price that would take him three years instead of two to pay back with the advance he had borrowed from a fellow Croatian loan shark. Rita was forty-one, a dark, thin, well-groomed woman with very short hair and a reputation among others she worked with and for as a television producer at Channel 5 as a no-nonsense, unflappable career woman. It was agreed that it was only a matter of time before she was grabbed by the NBC network or another network to produce a national talk or investigation show. Meanwhile, she lived alone in a comfortable apartment in what had once been class and was now on the fringe of respectability. She had a reasonable grip on herself when she left the station after calmly doing take after endless take with Cliff Swenson, the director of Investigative Eye , the show she produced and which had taken off well and had been picked up by twenty-seven stations. The problem was the star, Betina Young, who was neither young nor named Betina. Her real name was Alice Birdsell. She was older than Rita, but still a beauty with or without the makeup. However, time to be discovered nationally had run out on Betina Young. The clamor for beautiful black anchors and talk show hosts had passed. This made Betina less than a bundle of fun to work with. Betina kept demanding retakes, different dialogue. One of Rita's primary jobs was to keep Betina calm and happy. Happy wasn't possible. Calm wasn't either, but the semblance of calm was. Tonight had been one of the worst. And after driving around for more than half an hour looking for a space, Rita decided she had enough of staying in this apartment and waiting for her call from the network. She would get an appreciably more expensive, if smaller, apartment in Lincoln Park nearer the studio. Life would be easier. The space wasn't a miracle. It wasn't legal, too small and too close to a fire hydrant a block from her apartment. A small car pulled out of the illegal space. Rita took it. It took her five or six moves forward and back to make it in, and she wasn't sure the red car behind her could get out, but she was in. Maybe she'd be out in the morning before she got a ticket. Even if she got a ticket, it would, at this point, be worth it. She got out, locked the car, put her keys away, picked up her leather briefcase, and headed across the street trying to decide which of the "investigative" reports to feature for next week's show, probably the one about the landlord on Diversey who was extracting sexual favors from his welfare mother tenants in addition to rent: There was almost no traffic on the street. Every two or three minutes another late lost soul like Rita would roll slowly down the street praying some driver would pull out and let him park and get home to bed. She was walking almost in the middle of the street when she heard the sound. Metal against...? Metal? Concrete? It was ahead of her in the shadows between two cars. There were streetlights, but there was more than enough darkness for the neighborhood muggers. Rita hurried and was about to cross between two parked cars half a block from her apartment building when the monster appeared. He was suddenly there, hovering over her, arms extended over his head, something big and catching spots of light in his hands. Rita froze. She should have run. She could have done other things. She was a woman with a strong head on her shoulders, a woman who remained calm in a crisis and was the rock of her crew. But not now. She recognized him, had seen him in the neighborhood. He had approached others. Once she had even glimpsed such an encounter, but this was the first time he had approached her and it was night and the street was empty. Rita wanted to say, with the authority she had learned, "What do you want?" But she didn't speak. The man holding a metal garbage can over his head took another step toward her. He was close enough now that he could, by reaching out, have brought it down on her head. "Son of a bitch," the huge black man said. "Whore. Dirty piece of ass. Shit. Fuck. Cock." He was growing more angry. Rita looked around for help, anything. She would have flung herself on the hood of any passing car, but there were none and most of the windows in the nearby apartments were dark. She should have screamed, but she couldn't. The huge man suddenly spun around, garbage can over his head. He looked down the street. He looked at parked cars. He looked at darkened windows and he looked at Rita Blitzstein. And then he turned and threw the garbage can down the street toward Sheridan Road, which it would never reach though it was rolling quickly and noisily, clattering and scraping. He had thrown the can at least three car lengths. "Shit," he shouted, turning back to her. Rita tried not to but she backed up. She was determined not to shake or cry but she couldn't stop doing both. In the light of a nearby streetlamp she could see the man's black shining face, his eyes madly open, his knit sweater with a ragged hole about the size of a cassette in the chest. "You know whose street this is?" he shouted, looking around at the windows. She wasn't even sure he was talking to her, that he wanted an answer. "Nobody's," he said, looking down the street at the garbage can that was just coming to a halt against a Toyota's fender. "I do what I want. See what I want. I live on the cats, dogs, and rats and the water from the fountain in the park. These are dangerous streets. You'd best be careful." His face was inches from hers now and she tried to do something...answer, run, scream, hit him, though she feared hitting him would do little good. Finally, as he stood over her, his head suddenly cocked to one side like a curious bird looking at an unfamiliar object, she ran. Rita ran expecting two huge hands to grab her, lift her in the air, and throw her down the street. She wasn't sure if she heard footsteps behind her. Her low wooden heels clacked against the cracked sidewalk. She made it to her lobby door. She had fumbled for her keys as she ran and found them. She went into the lobby and glanced back. Was that a bush? Was it him? She pushed all the bells and panted to the inner door. No one opened. She forced herself to insert the key quickly, turn it, and go inside, closing the door behind her. But what was such a door to a monster like that? It was glass and thin wood from another era. He could burst through it with a lunge. Rita went up the stairs two at a time till she was so exhausted she had to pull herself up by the wooden railing. She heard nothing behind her, but she would not feel safe till she was behind her apartment door. She was on the third floor. She got inside, closed the door behind her and locked it, throwing the bolt. There was a light on her desk, one of those cheap table lamps with the green glass that you see in all the movies. She left it on all the time, day and night. Rita took her briefcase and moved to her bedroom, where she switched on the light and sat panting and then she did something she hadn't done in almost ten years. She called her parents because she needed them. She needed them badly. Copyright (c) 2000 by Stuart M. Kaminsky Excerpted from The Big Silence by Stuart M. Kaminsky All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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