Authors: Faye Kellerman
As always, with love and gratitude to my family.
And a special thanks to Eli Benaron and Yehoshua Grossgold for giving me a wealth of information and for being such terrific tour guides.
The call was a surprise; the reason behind it even…
Nine months later and Decker still couldn’t turn off the…
The first thing Marge noticed was how cold it was…
As she tucked the phone receiver under her chin, Rina’s…
Sitting at the conference-sized dining table, Decker felt like a…
It surprised Decker that the Yaloms sent their children to…
At least the jerk was listening, Marge was forced to…
“Peter’s going to be late,” Rina said to her parents.
Marge opened the passenger door of the unmarked and slid…
The recent rains had not only greened the mountains but…
Even though it was the job, Marge felt like a…
What a difference a peanut butter and jelly sandwich made.
Despite what was printed, Decker knew the LAPD wasn’t vilified…
Decker finally pulled into his driveway a little after eleven.
Davidson scratched his nose. “Looks like you found a body.
Decker reflected: A twenty-minute ride from the corpses to his…
Rina should be at her parents’ by now and Decker…
“No one’s picking up the phone,” Marge said. “I’ve got…
In all the years Rina had lived at Ohavei Torah,…
The Rosh Yeshiva invited Rina to sit in the chair…
Lying in bed, Rina had the book in front of…
Unsure how to start, Decker took out his shield and…
Slipping on his shades, Decker said, “Two things stick out…
Hannah was a wonderful baby; she liked her playpen. The…
After twenty-six hours of flight, they were greeted by quite…
A house of sadness. Black cloth had been draped over…
Rina drove, Yalom sat in the front passenger’s seat, allowing…
The woman had clout. Rina saw her being led by…
As if she didn’t know, the sign said it all:…
Someone tapped on the driver’s window. Rina jerked her head…
Rina looked out to a grove of sunflowers, stalks bending…
The cell-like stone entry to the yeshiva was cold and…
In the brief car ride over to the police station…
Digital clocks were a pisser when you were stricken with…
Jet lag was a blessing in disguise. While the country…
This time Decker passed up the smoke. He sat next…
Without thinking, Rina leaned against the heavy glass door, butting…
An hour’s nap and Decker felt much better. He showered,…
Marge said to Decker, “You look great! Are you sure…
The call was a surprise; the reason behind it even more so. Though Rina had known Honey Klein née Hersh for years—the two girls had been classmates—she had never considered her a close friend. Their small Orthodox high school had had a student body of eighty-seven at the time of Rina’s graduation: twenty-two seniors—twelve boys, ten girls. Rina had been friendly with all the girls. But as the years passed, the two women had crossed paths only sporadically; the chance meetings had held nothing beyond pleasantries. Honey had married young to an ultra-religious Chasidic diamond dealer. She had four kids. She seemed happy.
So when Honey asked if she and the kids might spend a week with Rina and her family in Los Angeles, Rina thought it strange. Her first thoughts were: Why me and why
Peter’s ranch was located in the rural portion of the San Fernando Valley. The environs had wide streets and big commercial plots roomy enough for storage centers, wholesalers, and warehouses. Sure, the newer residential neighborhoods sprouted tract homes and apartment buildings, but there were still many ranches large enough to stable horses and livestock—parcels similar to Peter’s homestead,
homestead now. The area was LA’s last refuge of undeveloped scrubland, most of it hugging the timbered foothills of Angeles Crest National Park.
Rina knew Honey had closer friends residing in the heart of the Jewish communities—in the Fairfax
area, Hancock Park, or the newer westside area of Beverlywood. Honey had girlfriends who owned homes within walking distance of the Orthodox synagogues, of the kosher restaurants and bakeries. No one deeply religious stayed at the Deckers’ ranch because it was so isolated. But when Rina had mentioned the geography over the phone, Honey had brushed it off.
“So it’s a little off the beaten track,” Honey stated. “I figured it’s about time I let the kids see the other side.”
“The other side?” Rina asked.
“You know…how the other half lives.”
“This isn’t exactly a den of iniquity, Honey. I still cover my hair.”
“No, no!” Honey protested. “I didn’t mean that. I’m not criticizing you. Who am I to judge? By the other side, I meant the fun stuff—Universal Studios, Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, Grauman’s Chinese Theater with the movie stars’ footprints. Is that old relic still around?”
“It’s called Mann’s Chinese Theater now,” Rina said. “You aren’t planning to take the kids to the
“No,” Honey said. “Just the outside of the building. And the sidewalks with the stars in them. They’re still around, right?”
“No, we’re definitely not going to the movies,” Honey said, quickly. “It would be too much for them. We don’t have televisions here. We don’t even have
in the village. Well, that’s not true. There are phones in the produce store, the butcher shop, and the bakery. For emergencies. But we don’t have phones in the houses.”
Rina knew lots of religious people who didn’t own television sets or go to the movies. She knew plenty of Orthodox adults who shied away from popular fiction and magazines like
. The stories were too lurid, the pictures were prurient. But no phones in the houses was a first.
“Since when is it halachically forbidden to use a
phone?” Rina stared at the receiver. “Aren’t you using one now?”
“I’m using the one at the bakery,” Honey said. “I know it sounds like every year some group is trying to
the other. That another group goes to more and more extremes to shut out the outside world. But the Rebbe’s not trying to do that.”
, Rina thought quickly.
Rebbe? Most people thought the Chasidim were one cohesive group. In fact, there were many Chasidic sects, each one interpreting the philosophy of the
Ba’al Shem Tov
a little bit differently.
“I’m sure you have your reasons, Honey. I don’t mean to sound disparaging. Goodness knows most people think me strange, being as religious as I am. And poor Peter. The guys at the station house think he’s gone nuts. Like you said, who am I to judge?”
“You have to understand the
philosophy,” Honey said. “Modern machines drive wedges between people.”
, Rina thought. That’s right. Honey had married a
“Once you get used to
using a phone, it really is very
,” Honey explained. “We take walks in the park and schmooze. We have lots of afternoon get-togethers…tea parties. It’s kind of…quaint.” Honey giggled. Rina remembered it as one of the nervous mannerisms Honey had developed after her mother died. “Anyway, if putting us up is too much for you…”
“I’d love to see you, Honey, if I can arrange it. Things are a little hectic since the baby’s—”
“You had a
?” Honey gasped. “That’s so exciting!
“Hannah’s nine months old.”
“Oh, Rina, how
! You finally got your little
! You must be
“I’m very lucky.” Rina noticed her voice had dropped to a whisper. The birth had gone smoothly but there were
complications afterward. Hannah would be Rina’s last baby and not by choice. There was a long pause. Honey asked her if everything was okay.
“Just fine.” Rina tried to sound chipper. A strain since chipper wasn’t part of her normal vocabulary.
Honey picked up the slack. “So the boys must be big by now…teenagers.”
“Fourteen and eleven.”
“Isn’t adolescence so
Actually, Rina found the boys easier the older they got. But she answered, “It can be trying.”
“Mendel’s turned into a very quiet boy. He’s lovely, but I can never tell what he’s thinking. And Minda is so moody. Everything I say, she jumps down my throat. We all really
this vacation. So you think you can put us up?”
“I’m pretty sure I can, but I have to check with Peter.” Rina paused. “Not that it’s any of my business, Honey, but Gershon doesn’t mind doing worldly things like going to Disneyland?”
Honey didn’t answer. There was background chatter over the line.
“Hello?” Rina asked.
“Sorry, I was distracted,” Honey said. “Gershon’s not coming. He’s in Israel. Didn’t I mention that?”
It was Rina’s turn to pause. “I don’t remember. Does he know of your plans to take them to Disneyland?”
“He didn’t ask and I didn’t say. All he knows is that I’m going back to Los Angeles to visit some old friends.”
“Very old,” Rina answered dryly.
“We’re not exactly ready for the glue factory,” Honey said. “Though sometimes it feels that way. Rina, it’s been wonderful talking to you. Thanks so much for everything. And if it’s too much trouble—”
“Not at all,” Rina said. “I’ll ask Peter and call you back.”
“Great. I’ll give you the bakery’s phone number. Just leave a message that you called and I’ll ring you back.”
Honey gave her the number. Rina wrote it down.
“When exactly are you planning to come out, Honey?”
“Soon. In two days.”
“Two days?” Decker looked at his wife. “She didn’t give you much notice, did she?”
Rina spooned yogurt into Hannah’s mouth. “Not a lot.”
Decker sipped his coffee, then took a bite of his turkey sandwich. Watching Rina feed their daughter, he was grateful for the peaceful interlude. His new assignment at the Devonshire station took him farther from the ranch each morning. But work was still close enough to steal an occasional lunch at home. He sat contentedly, smiling as Hannah smeared coffee-colored goop over her mouth…Rina was trying to keep her tidy but it was a losing battle—baby one, parent zero.
Decker’s eyes swept over the cherrywood dining table. Crafted in his bachelor days, it was too small for the family, the surface scratched and gouged. But Rina could be hopelessly sentimental. She refused to part with his handiwork.
“Who is this Honey lady anyhow?” Decker said. “I never heard you mention her name before.”
“That’s because we weren’t close.”
Decker finished half his sandwich. “So what’s she looking for? A free hotel?”
Rina wiped Hannah’s mouth. “I think there’s more to it than that.”
“Such as why didn’t she call Evie Miller? She and Evie were as thick as thieves. If I were Evie, I’d be hurt.”
Hannah sprayed a mouthful of yogurt in Rina’s direction. Without pausing, she threw back her head and chortled with delight.
“Very funny,” Rina said. But she was smiling herself. “How come I can’t get angry with you, Channelah?”
“Because I’m too cute, Mommie,” Decker answered.
Once again, Rina tried feeding Hannah, but the baby grabbed the spoon and started to bang it on her high chair tray. Rina leaned back in her chair. “I don’t know why she didn’t call Evie.”
“Maybe she did. Maybe Evie doesn’t want her. The woman sounds a little odd.”
“I wouldn’t exactly say she was odd—”
“She doesn’t own a telephone?”
“It’s part of the ethos of the village.”
?” Decker shook his head. “What’s wrong with living in a city or at least a
? Since when is upstate New York sixteenth-century Poland?”
“It’s a psychological thing, Peter. Blocking out the outside world. Less distraction. Easier to learn Torah.”
“They sure don’t mind asking for money from the outside world.”
“Everyone has to live, including scholars.”
“It’s possible to work
learn. I don’t believe in welfare for able bodies, Jews included.”
“The Leibben Chasidim are extreme,” Rina admitted. “Their Rebbe has some very odd ideas about kabbalah and how it relates to the messiah and afterlife. It’s considered very way out, not at all accepted belief.”
“Was Honey always fanatically religious?”
“Not at all. She grew up like me. Modern Orthodox. She had a big crush on John Travolta. I think she saw
Saturday Night Fever
Decker finished his sandwich and didn’t say anything. Rina poured a half-dozen Cheerios on Hannah’s high chair tray. The little girl dropped the spoon, stared at the O’s, then carefully pinched one between her forefinger and thumb, successfully navigating it to her mouth.
Rina wiped the baby’s plastic bib. “You’ve got the cop look in your eyes, Peter. What is it?”
“What do you think she’s really after?” Decker asked.
“An escape,” Rina said. “But so what? You know how stultifying the religion can be at times.”
Decker was impassive. Rina hit his good shoulder—the one without the bullet wound. “Why shouldn’t Honey have an opportunity to cut loose?”
“You up for entertaining her?”
“Actually, Peter, I think it would be nice to have a little company. Someone to reminisce with.”
Decker smiled to himself. Could someone as young as Rina actually reminisce? Because she was young—twelve years younger than he was. Something Decker didn’t like to think about.
Rina liberated Hannah from the high chair and gave her to Decker. “So what should I tell Honey? Should I give her the okay to come out?”
“It’s up to you, darlin’. It’s okay by me.”
Decker bounced Hannah on his knee. She was a good-sized baby—tall and long-limbed with red hair and pale skin just like him. But feature for feature, she looked like Rina, thank God. The baby gave him a drooling grin of six teeth, tiny fingers going straight for the mustache. With little hands on his mouth, Decker rotated his mustache to his daughter’s glee.
He said, “I’m just wondering how you get from John Travolta to no phones.”
“How’d you get from being a Southern Baptist to an Orthodox Jew, Peter—a much bigger transition. Life’s just full of little mysteries.”
“I was running toward something, Rina. Mark my words. This woman’s running
“Agreed. So let her run here and I’ll find out what it is.”