Bad Lawyer - Stephen Solomita - ebook

Bad Lawyer ebook

Stephen Solomita

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To keep his practice alive, a desperate lawyer takes a case defending a battered wife. Just seven years after he left law school, Sid Kaplan was one of New York's top defense attorneys. With a glittering style and a hunger for competition, he was as fierce as they come. He was the go-to lawyer for Manhattan's toughest, flashiest criminals - until his mother's death wrecked his confidence. Suddenly, the only way to sustain his sixteen-hour days was a ceaseless stream of cocaine and scotch, a combination that ruined his life's work in a matter of months. His only remaining employees are Caleb and Julia - a pair of ex-clients who don't mind working for irregular pay. Sid's latest bum case is Priscilla Sweet, a drug addict with priors, violent tendencies, and a dead husband whom she may or may not have killed in self-defense. She also has dangerous friends, which means that defending Prissy will make Sid famous again - either on the front page, or in the obituaries.

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Contents

Cover

About the Book

About the Author

Title Page

Copyright Page

Dedication

Prologue

Part 1

One

Two

Three

Four

Five

Six

Seven

Eight

Nine

Ten

Eleven

Twelve

Thirteen

Fourteen

Fifteen

Part 2

Sixteen

Seventeen

Eighteen

Nineteen

Twenty

Twenty-one

Twenty-two

Twenty-three

Twenty-four

Twenty-five

Twenty-six

Twenty-seven

Twenty-eight

Twenty-nine

Thirty

Thirty-one

Thirty-two

Thirty-three

Thirty-four

Thirty-five

Thirty-six

Thirty-seven

Thirty-eight

Thirty-nine

Forty

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Cover

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About the Book

To keep his practice alive, a desperate lawyer takes a case defending a battered wife.

Just seven years after he left law school, Sid Kaplan was one of New York’s top defense attorneys. With a glittering style and a hunger for competition, he was as fierce as they come. He was the go-to lawyer for Manhattan’s toughest, flashiest criminals - until his mother’s death wrecked his confidence. Suddenly, the only way to sustain his sixteen-hour days was a ceaseless stream of cocaine and scotch, a combination that ruined his life’s work in a matter of months.

His only remaining employees are Caleb and Julia - a pair of ex-clients who don’t mind working for irregular pay. Sid’s latest bum case is Priscilla Sweet, a drug addict with priors, violent tendencies, and a dead husband whom she may or may not have killed in self-defense. She also has dangerous friends, which means that defending Prissy will make Sid famous again - either on the front page, or in the obituaries.

About the Author

Stephen Solomita (b. 1943) is a prolific author of thrillers. Born in Bayside, Queens, he worked as a cab driver before becoming a novelist in the late 1980s. His first novel, A Twist of the Knife (1988), won acclaim for its intimate depiction of New York’s rough patches, its gritty style, and its dark vision of urban terrorism. This debut introduced Stanley Moodrow, a disaffected New York Police Department detective.Solomita wrote six more novels starring Moodrow, moving the character into a PI practice, and concluded the series with Damaged Goods (1996).

Bad Lawyer

A Novel

Stephen Solomita writing as David Cray

 

BASTEI ENTERTAINMENT

 

Bastei Entertainment is an imprint of Bastei Lübbe AG

 

Copyright © 2015 by Bastei Lübbe AG, Schanzenstraße 6-20, 51063 Cologne, Germany

 

For the original edition:

Copyright © 2013 by The Mysterious Press, LLC, 58 Warren Street, New York, NY. U.S.A.

 

Copyright © 2001 by David Cray

 

Project management: Lori Herber

Cover adaptation: Christin Wilhelm, www.grafic4u.de

Cover design by Erin Fitzsimmons

 

E-book production: Jouve Germany GmbH & Co. KG

 

ISBN 978-3-95859-447-0

 

www.bastei-entertainment.com

 

All rights reserved, including without limitation the right to reproduce this e-book or any portion thereof in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of the publisher.

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

For Otto Penzler who came looking, twice

Prologue

THIS IS A BOOK about love. Ferocious love, jealous love; love that excluded all but the lovers, love that reserved the traditional virtues of duty and honor to itself alone. I know I’m putting the cart before the horse, beginning my final argument before presenting the evidence, but questions of guilt or innocence are without meaning here, a point that needs to be made early on by a man already judged.

There were three lovers in this triangle, a curiously asexual menage à trois that maintained itself through a tyranny of memory, a pure terror of the past. We had no real leader, though I, with my personal narcissism (not to mention my fuck-you attitude) was the most obviously visible. But I was never, as some have suggested, the puppet-master, not with coconspirators as tough and powerful as Caleb Talbot and Julia Gill.

I begin, naturally, with myself, Sidney Itzhak Kaplan, third generation American Jew, born in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in the year 1944, raised in Sheepshead Bay, also Brooklyn. My paternal great-grandfather, Hyman Baruch, hit these shores in 1879, along with his young wife, Esther, and quickly set up housekeeping in a basement room on Norfolk Street in Manhattan. Unable to find steady work, Hymie became the proverbial wandering Jew, loading his rented wagon with everything from pots to perfume to spectacles, working the towns of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, absent (so I was told again and again) for months at a time.

My grandfather, Itzhak (who lived in our house after his wife, Ethyl, died) was born in 1898, the last of nine children. By that time, Hyman had moved his family to the relative splendor of an old-law tenement on Hester Street. The family—mother, father, and six surviving kids—lived in the second and third of four rooms. The last room, the windowless cube at the end of the line, was reserved for the cutting and sewing of shirtwaists. Summer and winter, a huge stove in the front room glowed red-hot to keep the pressing irons heated. My grandfather carried a thick, rubbery scar on his left arm, a souvenir of that stove.

In 1899, a year after my Grampa Itzy’s birth, his father disappeared. Itzy’s brother, Nathan, the oldest at sixteen, was dispatched to find him. What Nathan found was a grave outside the town of Tranquility in northwestern New Jersey, and a story about a Jew kicked in the chest by his horse. Nathan, ever the good son, dug up the body in an effort to make an identification.

“Sidney,” Grampa Itzy told me six decades later, “the stiff’s shirt was made by my own hands.’”

Grampa Itzy, who’d been less than a year old when his father disappeared, had tiny, black eyes that glowed whenever he leaped into hyperbole. The next part of it, though, had passed into history; it was believed absolutely by dozens of assorted aunts, uncles, and cousins. “Even with all the decay, Nathan could see they had shaved our father’s head. Also the beard. The beard was missing.”

As time went on, the children married and moved out. Grampa Itzy was the last to go, marrying Ethyl Pearlman in 1920. By that time he was already the proud owner of a men’s clothing store on Grand Street between Orchard and Ludlow.

“I was famous up and down the Lower East Side. A macher, yes, but also a mavin with a needle.” At this point he would raise his tea-glass to his lips, the gesture at once coy and calculating. “For Meyer Lansky, I made all his suits. Also for Albert Anastasia.” Then he’d sip, swallow, lower the glass to his lap. “In them days we was all the same. The Jews, the Italians, it didn’t make no difference. You got a little money, you wanted to look good.”

My father, David Baruch Kaplan, was born in 1921, the first of three children, the others girls and married off just after Pearl Harbor. David Baruch, in the great patriarchal tradition, was given the family business on a platter. He was brought into the store at age ten, his fortune supposedly made, only to crash, head-on, into the Great Depression, his patrimony amounting to a decade of twelve-hour days in a nearly empty store.

The experience soured him, left him bitter and cynical, unable to enjoy the lucky accident that finally brought prosperity. Drafted into the army shortly after Pearl Harbor, David broke his leg in basic training, a piece of good fortune that left him with a slight limp and a jump start on the rest of his generation.

My father and grandfather were angry, belligerent men, as am I. They had excuses; I don’t. Yet, in what was fast becoming the family tradition, I fought my way through high school, psychologically as well as physically, a touchy kid left to stand alone by the schoolyard fence. My best (and only) friend was a Catholic school boy named Vinnie Barrone who spoke out of the side of his mouth, an act of homage to his convict father.

My summers were spent in the store, sweeping the floors, dusting the mannequins, stocking the shelves, though my father made it clear that I would never walk in his shoes. Or sell them, either. “Sidney,” he told me on the day after my bar mitzvah, “the Lower East Side is going to the dogs.” By which he meant the Puerto Ricans. “And I don’t have the energy to move the business. Besides which, the department stores’ll ruin us in the long run no matter what.” He shook his head, leaned back against a free-standing counter piled with shirts. “What I’m gonna do is put away enough money so that me and your mother should be comfortable in our old age. But you, Sidney, you gotta find another way.”

My way, though I couldn’t have spelled it out even while it was happening, was Brooklyn College (at the time free and predominantly Jewish), then Brooklyn Law School on a scholarship. I graduated third in my class, a lanky, scowling young man who yearned for the courtroom, for combat, for a test of wills that could be measured by words like guilty and innocent.

Two weeks after being admitted to the bar, I went to work in the Manhattan D.A.’s office, passing from gofer to the elite Homicide Unit to private practice in less than seven years. Over the next twenty-plus years, I represented some of the worst criminals in New York, low- and high-level mob figures, drug dealers with briefcases full of banded hundreds. I had the Rolex, the pinky ring, the 450SL, the co-op on Central Park West, the summer house on Fire Island. I had a suite of offices on Broad Street in lower Manhattan, a stable of hard working subordinates who didn’t object to my stealing the glory, the kind of celebrity that brought a table at the Four Seasons without suffering the indignity of phoning ahead for a reservation.

Then it all went bad, seemingly overnight, though I now realize the process took several years. From my clients’ point of view, the decline meant no more than Sid Kaplan loses cases, that defendants defended by Sid Kaplan not only go to prison, but (as Sid Kaplan is personally hated by sentencing judges) routinely feel the weight of the proverbial thrown book. From my point of view, it was a soul and body destroying combination of alcohol and cocaine that allowed my fifty-plus body to work sixteen-hour days, seven days a week, that left me befuddled by the complexities of courtroom procedure. By the time I gave it up and went into rehab for a year, I was buying cocaine by the ounce, consuming it (along with quarts of Chivas) as fast as I could put it into my body, floating half the time, as high from the fatigue as from the drugs.

At first glance, Caleb Jesse Talbot, born in the town of Brantley, Alabama, in the year 1941, the only child of Zacariah and Rose Talbot, seemed an utterly harmless man. Under five-ten, more than three hundred pounds, the starched collars of his white shirts cut into his jowls, the edges disappearing under a wave of ebony flesh. He had eyes, Caleb did, that protruded (the result of a thyroid condition, so he insisted) as if pushed from inside by the double whammy of his collar and his tightly knotted tie.

I don’t know where Caleb went for the jackets he inevitably wore, but unlike his shirts, they somehow managed to accommodate his enormous shoulders and back, his equally enormous belly and ass, without buttons flying like sprinkled corn in a microwave. Similarly, his sharply creased black trousers fell smoothly over his buttocks and thighs, then dropped in a straight line to brush the tops of his tasseled loafers. Caleb had tiny feet and hands; his fingers were thick and of equal length, his square, pink palms curiously unlined. His face was unlined as well, the skin puffed out in a smooth, often rippling sheet that overpowered his small nose and pursed mouth.

Caleb liked to play the “good cop” to my “bad cop” whenever I needed to get the truth from my lying clients and their lying witnesses. He had a name for the persona he adopted at these times, calling it Uncle Zeke, after a Brantley relative with a special talent for the bow and scrape.

Caleb could summon Uncle Zeke at will. I use the word “summon” because Uncle Zeke was not what Caleb Talbot’s life had been about.

The Talbot family rode north on the great wave of black immigration that followed WWII, settling on 168th Street near Amsterdam Avenue in the winter of 1951. Zacariah found work driving a bus for the Transit Authority while Rose hiked across the Alexander Hamilton Bridge each day to clean apartments in nearby Morris Heights. Caleb did well at school, excelled in athletics, had numerous girlfriends, managed to resist the temptations of the street. When he applied for the NYPD after a two year stint in the army, his record was squeaky clean. This was an absolute necessity, or so Caleb assured me, for a black recruit in 1963.

“They checked me good. Checked my record, in the Army and out, visited my neighbors, my high school teachers, lookin’ to sniff out any hint of a reason to dump my application.” A pause, then, followed by a grim smile. “Course, they missed the stranger. In those days, I never showed nobody the stranger.”

The stranger was Caleb Talbot’s name for the part of his being that craved alcohol, a specter that first came to perch on his shoulders after a high school party. Caleb had very broad shoulders, but the stranger was insatiable.

“It was like findin’ myself, that first time I tossed down a shot. You know, finding out who I really was. By the time I graduated, I was drinkin’ hard most every day.”

His capacity was apparently as great as his body, then a relatively svelte 220 pounds, because he survived the Academy, graduating third in his class, and was put out on the street a confirmed drunk. The NYPD sent him up to the big Three-O, the Thirtieth Precinct in Harlem, where he proceeded to run through his old neighborhood like typhus through a refugee camp.

“I liked to hurt,” he explained, “liked to use the stick, a sap, my hands, whatever there was. Nobody minded, my partners maybe thinkin’ I had a right, being as these were my own people I was hurtin’.”

Years later, while detoxing for the tenth and final time, Caleb finally realized that he was beating himself, that each blow he’d struck was a measure of just how much he hated the popeyed man he encountered each morning in his bathroom mirror. He described the intensity of the experience as “a blind man opening his eyes to see the sky, saying, ‘Hey, shit, man, the motherfucker really is blue.’”

Unfortunately, the vision that ultimately kept him sober didn’t show itself until Caleb was summarily dumped by the NYPD for assaulting a street mutt in full view of a community activist, the Reverend Casper Lewis. In retrospect, it could have been worse. Caleb might have assaulted Reverend Lewis; he was that drunk at the time. Still, he came within an eyelash of being indicted, saved only by yours truly after a long lunch with an ADA named Adrienne Paskit just before she went to the Grand Jury. I reminded her of the victim’s extensive criminal record, my client’s unblemished career, my intention to fight to the death if Caleb Talbot was formally charged.

It was a bluff. I was representing Officer Talbot pro bono (not through the goodness of my heart, let me assure you, but only because the court expected a certain number of freebies) and wanted him out of my career path as quickly as possible. So when the Grand Jury failed to return an indictment, I assumed it was a done deal, that Caleb and I were quits forever, but a year later, when he showed up at my office and asked for a job, I gave it to him.

At the time I had four lawyers and a gaggle of attractively turned-out paralegals and secretaries laboring in my offices. Being of a theatrical turn of mind, I loved to play the patron (when I wasn’t playing the tyrant). How better to exhibit the benevolence of my dictatorship than hire a fat, black, ex-cop/ex-lush to be my personal investigator?

I know little more of Julia Gill’s pre-Kaplan history than a single sentence uttered on a February night two years before this story begins. Caleb was there, perched on the edge of a club chair, his feet, like the skirt around the chair’s base, gently brushing the carpet. I was fiddling with the radio (our Trinitron was in the shop, awaiting the next inflow of cash), running through the stations in search of something vaguely resembling Monday Night Football. Julia was sitting on our leather sofa, feet tucked beneath her buttocks, arms crossed over a narrow chest. She seemed unusually tense, lighting one cigarette after another, but neither I nor Caleb chose to comment. There were times when Julia smoldered, when she seemed about to burst into flame, and we accepted her moods, as she accepted ours.

But this time she chose to speak, to give momentary voice to the demons flitting through her soul. “My father,” she intoned, raising her head, “began to pimp me off when I was eleven.” Then she looked from me to Caleb as if demanding the answer to a riddle.

I do know that Julia Gill was a heroin addict and a prostitute. I know that the veins running along the insides of both arms were brown ribbons of scar tissue, that she almost died in jail because she refused to accept methadone. She was my client at the time, my paying client. Her pimp, resplendent in a fur-lined satin coat that dropped to his ankles, had hired my firm because, as he openly expressed it, “I’ll get my money back five times over before I burn the bitch out.”

It was a nothing case and ordinarily I would have tossed it to one of the hirelings, but something in the pimp’s attitude ruffled my macho feathers. Julia had made two mistakes. First, she’d stolen a small statue from a trick’s limousine, a pre-Columbian statue of Aztec origin worth $35,000. Second, the victim was a bachelor, childless, and willing (even eager) to admit to his peccadilloes.

Two detectives had taken him on a tour of the various New York strolls and he’d identified Julia Gill as she walked a beat near the 59th Street Bridge. This after viewing hundreds of prostitutes in a half-dozen locations, thus rendering his identification truly impressive. Add his memory of a scorpion tattooed on the perpetrator’s left buttock that nicely matched the tattoo on my client’s left buttock and you have a case that cannot go to trial. Julia had been charged with grand larceny in the third degree, a class D felony punishable by up to seven years in prison, every day of which, the prosecutor assured me, she would receive if …

The rule is three strikes and you’re out. Julia had whiffed at two fastballs, but she’d gotten a hit on the final pitch. Instead of turning the statue over to her pimp or trying to sell it, she’d stashed it in the basement of a neighboring tenement. The insurance company, Manhattan Life, the largest in the city, wanted that statue much more than it wanted to avenge itself on a junkie-whore named Julia Gill. It was that simple.

Without consulting my client, I worked out two deals, both contingent upon restitution: six months on Rikers Island followed by probation; or successful completion of a drug treatment program at a residential treatment center followed by probation. The second offer seemed the obvious choice, but “successful completion,” as defined by the RTCs themselves, meant at least a year of wall-to-wall group therapy sessions under conditions equivalent to medium-security incarceration. And Julia Gill had been around long enough to know it.

Nevertheless, after a week of considering the alternatives (including going to trial), Julia took the RTC. I remember her as she appeared before the sentencing judge, spectral thin, her cheeks bruised gray by the pain of cold-turkey withdrawal.

“Your Honor, I’m sorry for what happened.” She’d drawn herself up to her full height, though her voice quavered. “I didn’t know the statue was valuable when I took it. It was just supposed to be …” Julia’s lashes were long and so blond as to be nearly invisible. They’d whisked over her slanted green eyes like feathers. “Just something to have, I guess. Something to take with me when I left.”

I remember willing her eyes to drop to the toes of her shoes. I remember whispering, “Bow your head.” I remember Julia’s sharp chin slowly falling onto her chest, the bemused smile she hid from the judge.

It was a performance worthy of the Little Match Girl, a masterful performance, even if a bit on the pro forma side. Julia knew the statue was valuable (as she knew the exact nature of her sentence), that’s why she’d hidden it away instead of displaying it on a shelf. Nevertheless, this was her chance (her only chance) to rise above the back-room plea bargaining, to assert an individual self, and she took it.

Fourteen months later, Julia Gill (encouraged by Caleb Talbot, who’d worked on her case) returned in search of a job. Again, noblesse oblige ruled the day and I took her (and her recently acquired secretarial skills) into my corporate bosom.

I date the beginning of my personal demise from the day of my mother’s death.

Magda Leibovits, eighteen years old, came to America in 1938 from Budapest, Hungary, shortly after Germany’s invasion of that country. Her escape was neither miraculous nor complicated. Magda’s family, after marshalling its resources, found it had a bankroll sufficient to secure passage out for a single member. Magda was chosen and packed off to distant New York.

When I was very young, I remember her passing her mornings at the kitchen table, writing letters to one organization after another, seeking information on the fate of the family she’d left behind in Hungary. She corresponded with groups, official and unofficial, in the United States, in Israel, in Budapest, Kraków, Prague, Bonn, Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels. A ghost searching for ghosts.

She was always standing by the door when the postman arrived, and I, before I started school, stood with her. I loved the foreign stamps, the spidery handwriting, the odd return addresses. The letters seemed exotic and mysterious, an adventure in the making. They were, in fact, the only life my mother had.

I lost a big case on the day Magda died, one of my biggest. My father was long gone by then, and I’d seen so little of my mother in the intervening years that my secretary (not Julia Gill) decided to hold back the news until after the jury came in with its verdict. I recall being angry, though whether at losing the case or my secretary’s oh-so-accurate reading of my priorities, I can’t say. Perhaps anger was my substitute for grief, as it was my substitute for every other emotion.

For some reason, I went to Magda’s house, the house of my childhood, instead of the funeral home, and let myself in. It wasn’t a very big house, three small bedrooms upstairs, the last tiny enough to qualify as a closet. Downstairs, a living room with a little nook for the dinner table, a half-bath, a kitchen. The unfinished basement, too damp for storage, held the furnace, the washer and dryer, a few rusted tools, their handles gray and moldy.

I went through the house like a burglar, from room to room, touching the odds and ends of Magda’s life—knives and forks, a lace doily on a chair back, the ceramic butterfly I’d given to her on a long-forgotten birthday—holding these objects in my palm as if trying to gauge their weight. My mood was speculative, curious, almost wondering; my progress stately, careful, punctuated only by the occasional snort of first-cut cocaine.

Inevitably, I came to Magda’s bedroom, opened the closets, the drawers in her bureau, feasted on a row of faded housecoats, a pile of neatly mended cotton underwear. Then, beneath a stack of flat white boxes, each containing a pair of nylon stockings, I found a book.

Though kept chronologically, the book was more ledger than diary. In it, my mother had fashioned a record of her correspondence, entering the date and the contents of each letter she’d sent or received. At the very end, after filling more than a hundred pages, she’d listed the names of her immediate and extended families, and their ultimate destinations: Auschwitz, Birkenau, Sobibor, Treblinka, Belzec …

Half the names bore the tag unknown, but I think it’s safe to assume that Magda had given up on these, because underneath the list she’d printed two lines in crude block letters:

TOD MACHT FREI

DEATH MAKES FREE

The date of this final entry: October 16, 1963.

I twisted as I fell, like a burning sheet of paper tossed from a high window. Pieces of my life, charred black, flew away as I dropped. My wife, Iris, first, taking my son, David, and what was left of the family fortune to sunny Los Angeles. The hirelings, except for Caleb and Julie, came next. Sharp enough to read the graffiti on the wall (where it was, indeed, writ large), they left for more promising situations. Then I arrived at work one morning to find my office padlocked, my landlord’s attorney standing next to a city marshall, the marshall holding an order to evict.

The Mercedes was gone by then, likewise the Rolex and the pinky ring, the antiques and the co-op overlooking Central Park, and I remember feeling distinctly relieved when I caught sight of the marshall standing in front of the door. He was a short, dumpy man with a ratty mustache, the kind of bureaucrat I routinely bullied in my prime, but I simply turned and walked away, walked directly to the men’s room where I began a monumental binge by filling my nose with cocaine.

By the time I reached Bellevue’s crowded emergency room three days later, my heart was pounding in my chest like a trapped animal. My clothes were drenched with sweat; blood dripped from both nostrils. My eyes were rolling in their sockets, while my arms and legs jerked like the limbs of a puppet in the hands of an epileptic puppeteer. I fully expected to die, felt that I deserved nothing less, was ecstatic and terrified at the same time, a mental state that left the emergency room staff profoundly unimpressed.

They’d seen it all before, of course; they saw it every day. I was given the requisite medication, trundled off to a bed on the third floor, assured that I would live to fight another day.

But I had no fight left. And in the dim, sedated light of the following dawn, I felt my life close around me, as dark and confining as a shroud. The routine of the hospital flowed defiantly: a nurse took my vitals, a doctor repeated the process an hour later, breakfast was laid on the rolling table next to my bed, an orderly tugged me into a chair and fussed with a set of clean sheets. My three neighbors rose, took walks, watched television, received guests, chatted among themselves. I seemed, by comparison, utterly irrelevant, a non-being, devoid of either force or substance.

It was in the middle of this orgy of self-pity that Julia Gill and Caleb Talbot showed up. I remember they were carrying green visitor’s cards and that Julia held hers against her breasts while Caleb let his dangle from his clubby fingers. At another time—and I realized this as they approached my bed, each flashing a thin, unsure smile—I might have been angry at their presumption, but at that moment I would have welcomed my executioner.

“You hit bottom yet?” Caleb asked without preamble. “You ready, boss?”

I remember nodding quickly, then wishing I could take it back, that there was something still within me able to summon a hint of defiance.

On the following day I went, by cab, from Bellevue Hospital to the Rushmore Institute on East 83rd Street and spent the next year in one of two modes. Either I endured the vicious attacks of eight group members or I joined eight group members in attacking some other unfortunate. The experience was hellish by design. You had to be open, to reveal some new awful truth at every turn, a sore wound on which your brothers and sisters would feast. Nor could you back off when it came time to score the others. Pain was to be given, as well as received; one was expected to do one’s bit, to make the sadomasochistic sacrifice.

At the end of each session we joined hands to form a ring and begged some obscure, beneficent (and almost certainly Christian) deity for the strength to get through the night.

The question that leaps out is simple enough: Why didn’t I just leave, especially during those first few months when the urge for cocaine had me terrified by my own dreams? The simplest answer is that I was afraid of the world, that within the Institute (we referred to it, one and all, as the Institution) I felt safe. At least I knew from which direction the blows would come. But beyond that, as I recovered my physical strength and my bad attitude, I realized that the pure will to survive (which precluded the use of any mind-altering substance) was reasserting itself. If I remained in the Institution, it would grow; if I left, it would shrink, perhaps die.

Eventually, when the staff pronounced me fit to entertain, Julie and Caleb came to see me. I had no other visitors. My son phoned from time to time, but I had little to say to him. David was a good boy, a graduate student in archeology at UCLA who neither smoked nor drank. His calls reeked of perfunctory obligation, as if he, too, realized that we had no common ground, not even that of his childhood.

It was Julie who provided me with the last piece of the addiction puzzle. We were in the dayroom, the two of us, and I was sitting by the window in a deep funk. After eight months of voluntary incarceration I’d come to the point where I didn’t give a damn about sobriety or drugs. My general mood flicked, almost from moment to moment, between unfocused rage and profound despair.

“Sid, you look like shit.” Julie was quite slender, with prominent bones that remained somehow delicate, as if the contours of her brow, cheeks and jaw had been shaded in by an artist.

I remember shrugging my shoulders, unable to summon the energy for actual speech.

“What it is,” she said after a minute, “is grief. You’re in mourning.” She lit two cigarettes, put one in my hand. “And it’ll never go away. That’s the important part, Sid. The grieving will never end because your lover isn’t dead and buried. She’s right across the street, in the parks, the bars, even the supermarkets.”

I turned to face her. “You’re talking resurrection here? Reanimation?”

“No, Sid, not resurrection. Possession. Possession and death.”

I came out of the Institution in 1995, older, wiser, and destitute. Caleb and Julie, both working for other lawyers, met me at the door and took me into the apartment they shared on East 25th Street. I believe, at the time, I was bewildered by the arrangement; there was no physical relationship, and the exact nature of the emotional transactions, somehow eluded me. Then one night I dreamed that Julie and Caleb had left me, that I made one sarcastic remark too many and they’d packed their bags and walked away.

I leaped out of the bed, my body soaked with sweat, and charged into the hallway, getting as far as Julie’s door before coming to myself. Julie slept with her door cracked open, a sop to her fear of entrapment, and I could clearly see the long line of her body under the sheets. Still, I waited, my fingers resting on the brass knob, until her chest rose and fell, until I was sure I still had her with me.

I went into the living room and sat on a hump-backed chair by the window and began to sob uncontrollably. A moment later, I felt a presence and turned to find Caleb kneeling beside the chair. Behind him, Julie stood in the doorway, one hand raised to her lips. Their eyes were invisible in the darkness, but I didn’t need a lamp to read the message. I was home and that was all there was to it. I’d found my ghosts.

Part I

One

THE MINUTE I LAID eyes on the old woman, I knew she was going to lie to me. Posed there in my office, she gave me a long moment to absorb the extent of her misery. To admire the mousey hair dribbling over the back of her collar, the dark pouches beneath her swollen eyes. Her narrow lips were greasy with dark red lipstick, the only sign of color in her white-on-gray face.

“Mr. Kaplan?” She wore a faded cloth coat (threadbare, naturally) buttoned up to her throat and she clutched it with her right hand like it was the only thing between her bony frame and the wicked January wind. “My name is Thelma Barrow.”

“Call me Sid. And take a seat, Mrs. Barrow.”

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!