1 Pinky Silverman thought Marvin Feldstein looked menacing. Marvin did look odd, standing like that in the back of the synagogue. He was short and squat, with a blotchy complexion, curly dark hair and a snub-nosed revolver in his right hand. Rabbi Gottleib noticed the gun and pressed a button on the underside of the lectern, thereby alerting the police to trouble. Within minutes the congregation heard the approaching sirens. But the police were too late. Feldstein put the business end of the revolver against his chest and, using his thumb, pulled the trigger. Marlene Blumberg, who was always late to Saturday morning services, happened to enter the sanctuary just as the gun went off. She reached out to catch Marvin as he fell, more by reflex than anything else, but Marvin was heavy and she found herself underneath him, his blood dripping onto her face and newly highlighted hair. Pinky was the first to reach Marlene. He picked her up, and using his imported wool tallis, wiped the blood from her face. “Let’s get you home,” he said, as bloody Feldstein moaned loudly at their feet. “Oh, Pinky,” Marlene said before fainting. Pinky, a divorced internist, revived her and put her in his car. At her apartment, he guided her into the shower and waited in her kitchen while she cleaned up.
2 This was Marvin Feldstein’s second attempt at suicide. Yes, he survived this one as well as the first. The bullet missed his vital organs and lodged in the large wooden plaque containing the Ten Commandments hanging on the back wall of the sanctuary. His first attempt had been three years earlier in the men’s room of the Gold Coin cafeteria, where, after eating roast beef and mashed potatoes, he slit his left wrist using a butter knife. From his stall at the far end of the men’s room, an elderly man with a gastric disorder heard Marvin hit the floor. He called for help, thereby saving Marvin’s life. Feldstein, the youngest of twelve children, grew up deeply depressed. As a kid, he had difficulty gaining the attention of his parents, who never quite remembered his name or, near the end, who he was. Depression was his middle name, or could have been for all his parents cared. Now, he was a dispatcher for the Sun-Times on the midnight shift. He slept all day and worked all night. Few people saw him except on weekends, and then what they saw was a loner walking slumped over to or from the A&P or the drug store or the Gold Coin. Everyone was surprised last year when he took up with Gloria Gittleman, a willowy beauty with golden hair, deep blue eyes and a reputation. After a fourteen-month liaison, Gloria dumped Feldstein to pick up where she left off with the notorious Marty Rosenberg, once he was freed from the penitentiary after serving five years for passing fraudulent checks. While it should have been good riddance to bad rubbish, Feldstein took the breakup hard. Gloria was the most beautiful woman he had ever dated. In fact, if you don’t count the unfortunately named Fiona Helfat, Gloria was the only woman he had ever dated. Years later, on a small boat in a small lake in Iowa, when they were different people, Gloria told Pinky she had been attracted to Feldstein because of his attempts to end his life. Sort of like a nebbish James Dean. Still, he was no match—she thought but didn’t say—for the disreputable Marty Rosenberg. Marvin’s fragile psyche saw no out but suicide.
3 Marlene came out of the shower wrapped in a plush towel and smelling of hyacinth. “Can I get you something?” she said, smiling at Pinky. “I’d like a closer look at that towel,” he said. She unfurled it and threw it to him. “My hero,” she moaned. It was no accident that Pinky ignored the bleeding Marvin Feldstein and rushed instead to the aid of Ms. Blumberg. He knew he wasn’t required by law to help Feldstein and, in any event, he knew the ambulance would soon be pulling into the synagogue driveway. Marlene, on the other hand, had caught his eye years earlier when he saw her at a pool party with that gonif, Marty Rosenberg. They were arguing because she had found him in flagrante delicto with Gloria Gittleman in the deep end. Marty’s reputation for being unusually well endowed was not sullied in any way during that sorry episode. Silverman came to Marlene’s rescue that night too, plying her with petit fours and cheap repartee to get her mind off the disgusting writhing of Rosenberg and—as Marlene saw it—The Whore Gittleman. She took Pinky’s number and promised to call, but never did. Perhaps she feared that seeing Pinky would forever remind her of the misdeeds of the cretin Marty Rosenberg. But now, Pinky’s quick action at the synagogue that morning helped her overcome her earlier reticence. Pinky was tall and good-looking with a ready smile. Marlene, for her part, was short and squat, with a more than ample bosom.
4 Feldstein stayed in the hospital for eleven days. His spinal cord had not been severed, but there was some nerve damage. His right eye drooped and he had no feeling in his right arm. On day five, Feldstein became aroused while Flo Westerfeld, an attractive LPN, was bathing him. Ms. Westerfeld noted this on his chart as an indication he was well on the road to recovery. Flo had always been drawn to the sick, sore, lame and disordered. She had a three-legged dog named Spike and a one-eared cat named Van Gogh. She liked Feldstein and his arousal. “A real gentlemen,” she told her sister. Feldstein, for his part, was smitten with the sure handed Ms. Westerfeld. She continued to bath him long after his release from the hospital. Rabbi Gottleib visited Marvin on day eight. “It’s good to see you,” the rabbi said. “How are they treating you?” “I’m okay,” Feldstein murmured. “Can’t complain. Nurse Westerfeld here knows her stuff.” “You must have been very despondent to try to kill yourself, Marvin. I took it as a cry for help.” “It wasn’t a cry for help, damn it. I was trying to kill myself. But,” he said looking at nurse Westerfeld, “I think I’m better now.” And then he added, “No thanks to Silverman.” “Pinky Silverman?” the rabbi asked. “The bastard—you should excuse it please—ignored me, laying there with blood gushing out of my kishkes.” “I’m sure he had his reasons. Tell me, why did you decide to commit suicide at our shul?” Rabbi Gottleib asked. “I didn’t want to die alone like so many people do. I wanted the community to know I had killed myself, to see me do it. So much better than a note.” “I see your point,” the rabbi said. “But you’ve been granted a rare gift. The next time you walk into the synagogue—and I hope it will be very soon—everyone will know who you are. You’re not alone, Marvin. I believe in you and I’m here for you.” Feldstein smiled and squeezed the rabbi’s hand.
5 The agitator Marty Rosenberg swore to Gloria Gittleman that he was a changed man and he wanted nothing more than to marry her and have a family. Gloria bought into this and said yes. They shopped for an engagement ring at a downtown jewelry store, and chose a three diamond job that set the despicable Rosenberg back a couple of grand. He paid by check. Many in the neighborhood were skeptical of his bona fides, deeming the proposal just a ruse to get in Gloria’s pants. Just as many, recalling her recent fling with Marvin Feldstein, and a long list of others, were quick to point out that that gate was on well-oiled hinges. The happy couple chose a date for the wedding and went to see Rabbi Gottleib. “That’s Yom Kippur, Marty. The holiest day of the year. It’s impossible to marry on that date,” the rabbi explained. The blasphemous Rosenberg groused about the myriad of rules imposed by his faith. Not, in his case, faith exactly, but the religion into which he was born, for Marty was a strict non-believer. Still, Gloria insisted on being married in the synagogue, and that was that.
6 One night Marty confessed to Gloria that he was in the midst of a major con—he called it a project—that would put them on easy street. She thought he said Neassie Street, which was on the far side of River Park, near Swedish Covenant Hospital. “Why would we want to live all the way over there?” Gloria asked. “Sweetheart, let me finish this project and we’ll live wherever you want to live.” And so it was that the nefarious Marty Rosenberg amassed over a hundred grand in cold, hard cash. It was too dangerous to put it in a bank, so he stored it in his apartment. Outwardly, nothing had changed. But secretly, ne’er do well Rosenberg had become one of the richest men in Albany Park.
7 Pinky and Marlene dated for several months during which the romance flourished. Pinky thought he was in love, but he wasn’t quite sure. He had been down this road before, so he yearned for certainty. He was still paying alimony to Shirley, his first wife. He sought advice from the Rabbi Gottleib. “Why are you questioning your feelings, Pinky? You two seem made for each other.” “You said the same thing about Shirley and me.” “That was a long time ago. Besides, nobody’s perfect. At any rate, give it time. Another couple of weeks. Then we can talk again.”
8 The rabbi has been dating Pinky’s ex-wife, Shirley, for the last three months. If they married, Pinky’s alimony payments would stop. But the rabbi didn’t want to get Pinky’s hopes up, mainly because he, the rabbi, wasn’t sure yet whether he would ask Shirley to marry him. In this way, he was proffering himself the same advice he had given Pinky: Give it time. The rabbi was sixty-three. His wife, Thelma, had died three years earlier. While Shirley was only in her late forties, they had much in common. In the years since the divorce from Pinky, Shirley upped her religious observance. She was a regular at morning and evening services. She rose to a leadership position in the women’s auxiliary. She was rebounding from a brief affair with that good-for-nothing Marty Rosenberg, when a chance meeting with Rabbi Gottleib on the Ravenswood elevated train led to coffee and then dinner. The rabbi talked about his love for Thelma and how her heart attack challenged his faith and left him devastated. Shirley squeezed his hand and held it to her breast.
9 Late one evening the bandit Marty Rosenberg was shot from a speeding car. He was rushed to the hospital where he underwent emergency surgery. The operation was a success and his recovery was enhanced by the attentiveness of LPN Flo Westerfeld. While Gloria would sit lovingly by his side during visiting hours, after that he was in Flo’s expert hands. She had heard the stories of his philandering, his racketeering and the rumors of his unusually large phallus, and found herself drawn to him. She was sure she could set him on a path of honesty and rectitude. As her fascination with Rosenberg grew, her ardor for Marvin Feldstein cooled. But how could she compete with the glamorous Gloria Gittleman? If she failed, she said to herself, it wouldn’t be for lack of trying.
10 Gloria’s disappearance three weeks before the wedding baffled everyone. A house-to-house search turned up nothing. There was no note and no clue, until an anonymous caller told the police she had seen Gloria with Pinky Silverman the afternoon before she vanished. Police department detectives questioned Pinky extensively. He admitted he and Gloria had bumped into each other on the Ravenswood elevated train going downtown and one thing had led to another. They had drinks at the Lobby Bar in the Palmer House and then walked to Buckingham Fountain. He said he went to the Art Institute, while she went to Marshall Fields to shop. “I never saw her again,” Pinky swore. “Honest. Perhaps,” he said, “she moved to Skokie.” Police detectives checked the records of the Palmer House on the off chance Pinky and Gloria had rented a room. No, said the manager. “The only couple matching their appearance was a Larry and Maja Johnson from Des Moines. They paid in cash for one night.” One of the detectives wanted to run a check on the Johnsons, but the other one—older and nearing retirement—told him not to make a federal case of it. Attention then turned to the villainous Marty Rosenberg. His check to the jewelry store bounced and a week before the disappearance, an aggressive collection agent had ripped the ring from Gloria’s finger. Neighbor’s recalled hearing the lovebirds screaming at each other. Rosenberg was taken into custody and questioned extensively using enhanced interrogation techniques perfected by the Chicago police and adopted years later by the CIA. But Rosenberg was steadfast in his denial of participating in Gloria’s disappearance. He didn’t tell the police Gloria had stolen all of the money he had stolen. How could he? He did confess to twenty-three other felonies and was tried, convicted and jailed. Over time, people forgot about Gloria. Flo went back to Marvin Feldstein and they were married. The rabbi married Shirley. And Pinky? He went to a medical convention in Atlanta and never came back. There was no evidence of foul play and the police seemed uninterested in following up on the matter. Marlene, on her own, continued to search for Pinky for two years. Eventually, she gave up and went back to school to become a fitness instructor. She later married a man named Don, who managed a shoe store. They had a couple of kids.
11 Larry Johnson, a retired internist, and his wife Maja bought a large house in Des Moines, Iowa. They joined the country club and hosted soirees. They were never very clear about their backgrounds, preferring, they said, to look to the future and not the past. He was tall and handsome, with a ready smile, while she was a willowy beauty with golden hair and deep blue eyes. They were a popular addition to the horsey set, and after a few years, there was some talk among Republicans of running Larry for mayor. He laughed and politely declined. They joined the Walnut Street Church, but attended only sporadically. They bought a waterfront cabin in a secluded spot on Spirit Lake in northwest Iowa. Larry bought a small Mach 2 sailboat and he and Maja spent many happy hours on the water. Life was good. Until the day the reprehensible, recently paroled, Marty Rosenberg showed up at the front door of their cabin.
12 “Pinky Silverman,” Rosenberg shouted. Larry ushered him inside and locked the door. “Does anyone know you’re here?” Larry asked. “Maja, look who’s here.” “Pretty nice,” the dastardly Rosenberg said, deceit oozing from his pores as he looked around. “No one knows I’m here. This is just between us chickens.” He wanted his money, of course; the money Gloria had stolen. She had known this day would come and had prepared for it. When she split, in addition to his ill-gotten cache of currency, Gloria had taken Rosenberg’s bottle of roofies. Now she dissolved two of the date rape drugs in a glass of bourbon. “Take a load off, Marty. Have a drink. We’ll talk about the money.” In fifteen minutes, he was unconscious. Gloria and Pinky tied him up, weighted him down, loaded him on the Mach 2 and dumped him in the lake. They agreed—with nothing more than a silent nod—never to mention the incident. They sold the boat and the cabin and never went back to Spirit Lake. The following year, Larry decided he would stand for mayor after all. He won handily.