Mrs. Kaplan and the Matzoh Ball of Death (19 page)

BOOK: Mrs. Kaplan and the Matzoh Ball of Death
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I nearly
when Mrs. K almost mentioned about the burglaring! But she did not miss a beat. “What poor Bertha Finkelstein did in that moment of panic was to put the stolen earring into her mouth. I do not know whether she intended just to hold it there or to swallow it, but one way or the other it got lodged in her throat, and we all know the rest.”

When no one had anything to say, Mrs. K added: “That is the whole
the whole story. Bertha Finkelstein stole one earring. Daisy Goldfarb hid the other, as you will find if you look. Bertha choked on that earring when in a moment of panic she tried to swallow it but breathed it in instead.

“There is nothing more to say.” And Mrs. K sat down.


The rest of the story does not take long to tell. After everyone had a chance to digest what Mrs. K said, the two detectives retreated to Mr. Pupik's private office and were talking there for at least ten minutes. When they came out, they had decided they would look for the missing earring in Daisy Goldfarb's room, as Mrs. K had suggested, and they would look at the blue dress that Bertha Finkelstein was wearing at the
. Meanwhile, Mrs. K and I were excused, and we returned to the lounge, where we flopped down onto a sofa, both exhausted and relieved. Mrs. K had no doubt that she had made her case, and I was feeling like I had been watching an exciting television detective story, but watching from the inside instead of the outside. And maybe I had.

A few days later, after they had done their checking and made other inquiries, the two policemen called us together once more in Pupik's office. This time there was no problem with my being there, and the whole atmosphere was much more pleasant than the last time, although Pupik still looked like he had just eaten a lemon. After we all again were seated at the table—I was next to Mrs. K, Pupik was next to me, and Corcoran and his wrinkled friend sat across from us—Corcoran spoke first:

“Without going into unnecessary detail, let me start by saying that we did follow up on the suggestion that Mrs. Kaplan made about the missing earring and the blue dress.” Ha! These were more than just suggestions; but let him call them what he wants.

Looking directly at Mrs. K, and with a bit of a smile, he then went on, “We did indeed find the earring where you said it was, and we also found Mrs. Finkelstein's blue dress with the high neckline and no pockets, just as you described.”

Mrs. K looked over at me and nodded her head a bit, showing that this was just as she expected. I was wondering whether it was what the policemen expected.

Corcoran then addressed all of us at the table. “I cannot say that the department is convinced that Mrs. Kaplan's version of events is the correct one. Probably we'll never know for sure. What we are convinced of, however, is that, to be frank, Mrs. Kaplan's explanation of what happened to Mrs. Finkelstein is at least as probable as any other theory that we have been able to come up with.” Here again he looked at Mrs. K, and now he was clearly smiling. “That being so, we've decided that there is no basis upon which to bring any charges against her and consider the case, at least insofar as Mrs. Kaplan is concerned, to be closed.” (I think “insofar as Mrs. K is concerned” means that Daisy Goldfarb and her son the
might be hearing from the police in the near future.) Mrs. K took my hand and gave it a little squeeze.

Corcoran then tried once more to find out how Mrs. K knew about the other earring's location, and how she had learned about Bertha Finkelstein's criminal record, but when he saw he was not likely to succeed, he just shook his head and let the matter drop. I was relieved, as I had been afraid that somehow the part played by Mrs. K and me, not to mention by Sara and her nice friend the burglar lady, and the help we got from Benjamin, might be found out. Now it will remain just our little secret.

As we and the detectives were leaving, Jenkins and Pupik went out the door first. Before he left, Corcoran turned to Mrs. K, offered his hand, and said, in a confidential sort of way but with a nice smile, “You know, Mrs. Kaplan, personally I think you did a hell of a job figuring this out. Anytime you want to come down and play Sherlock Holmes on any of my other tough cases, you're more than welcome.”

She thanked him warmly and gave his hand a squeeze as he was leaving. And even though we all knew that the detective was not serious about the invitation, it was clear he was serious about his admiration for Mrs. K.

As for Mrs. K, to be compared by a real police detective to her hero Mr. Sherlock Holmes, well, she had every right to
to be proud of herself.

And me? I was
also, because that made me her Doctor Watson!

Elementary it was, my dear reader.

To Analee and Eliana, the “two girls” in my life—and in memory of my parents, Jacques and Esther Reutlinger, and my grandmother Leah Lurie, whose voices I can hear when I write Yiddish phrases like those in this book.


My thanks to all my friends who read manuscripts of this story at various stages of its creation and gave me valuable advice and suggestions, and of course to my wife, Analee, for her continued patience and encouragement. If Analee, the first reader of all my manuscripts, doesn't laugh at the funny parts, I know it's time to rewrite.

My sincere thanks as well to senior editor Dana Isaacson for making Mrs. Kaplan feel welcome from the moment she arrived at Random House and for his excellent suggestions that greatly improved her story. Thanks also to Katie Rice, Kimberly Cowser, and all those at Random House who are orchestrating Mrs. Kaplan's debut.


Born in San Francisco, M
graduated from UC Berkeley and now lives with his wife, Analee, in University Place, Washington. Professor of law emeritus at Seattle University School of Law, Reutlinger is the author of the novel
Made in China
. He also plays the clarinet and collects automobiles.

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BOOK: Mrs. Kaplan and the Matzoh Ball of Death
7.9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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