The Hazards of Good Fortune, Part VIII

He thought perhaps his erstwhile friend and client might benefit from experiencing a little of life without Jamal Jones running interference. Preoccupied with her ovaries, the asparagus omelet in front of her was untouched. The men, who appeared to be around forty, sat in a booth and ordered drinks. Was the harsh tone she had just used misdirected anger she felt toward her husband? It contravened the laws of nature and Dag was unsure how to respond. Recently, the skin around her light brown eyes had been tightened and despite having abandoned herself to a scalpel belonging to one of the top plastic surgeons in Manhattan the result left her looking as if she were in a perpetual state of surprise. “Dag Maxwell! Paul said to the Ephesians. In half an hour, he was having lunch with a projected NBA lottery pick at Sylvia’s Restaurant and expected to sign the kid before the peach cobbler arrived at the table. Now traces of purple lingered on the horizon, and he could see the moon rising over downtown Port Chester. She was meeting with a political consultant and did not want any county officials who frequented the usual watering holes to see her. Russell had known her since he was sixteen and he had never called her anything other than Mrs. Million. It was her suspicion that if she were not going through a divorce at this highly inconvenient time, her thinking around the police shooting would have greater clarity. News had reached him of Dag’s Los Angeles fracas. “You know, I’m curious why you mentioned prostates,” Nicole said, tired of her quasi-relative’s self-righteous bullying. He took his laptop to the library where he read the news in a quiet corner. Sean stood at his boss’s side, alert and prepared to deflect anything incoming. What’s with the spelt?” she inquired, tapping a fire engine red fingernail on the offending item. Through the murk and mist of her professional quandaries (staffing, budgets, trials), the one that kept surfacing and submerging then surfacing again like a mutant swamp goblin was the question of whether or not to convene a grand jury in the shooting of the unarmed civilian John Eagle by Police Officer Russell Plesko. The sun was low in the sky when he walked into the Fenian. Having illuminated the financials, the district attorney asked if there were any particular policy issues he wanted to discuss. “Then you’re under arrest,” Malone said, brandishing handcuffs. Donna narrowed her eyes. In Marcy’s view, it was bad enough Jay divorced his first wife for reasons she could never comprehend, but he compounded that error by marrying a non-Jew who didn’t even know what kind of matzo to buy for Passover. John Eagle could have grabbed his gun. It was a wild thought. “I assess situations quickly based on the data my people put in front of me. Crawford.”
“I’m sorry, ma’am,” Sean said, teeth clenched. When he turned back to his former agent, there was an imploring look in his eyes that Jamal had not seen before. She regarded her slim and preternaturally stunning friend whose skin appeared luminous. My parents weren’t religious.”
“Right, I forgot. Several people shaded their eyes with their hands and glanced fleetingly at the sky. Christine marched over to the prisoners, heels sparking off the pavement. “You know the bar sponsors a Little League team, right?”
“Sure, I know.”
“Ralphie Bonfiglia’s the coach and his company is transferring him to Boston for a few months.”
“Yeah, so?”
“You coach basketball, don’t you?”
“That’s right.”
“Do you want to coach the Little League team until Ralphie comes back?”
The offer flabbergasted Russell. The existential aloneness his longtime agent’s abandonment revealed was terrifying. He pointed to a picture on the wall. Dominic Sr., to his credit, said that would not be possible. Anyone could prepare a meal, but for the food to have the requisite Jewish soul, her cousin-in-law believed, it required the presence of a Jew in the kitchen. Boulevard to the east and Frederick Douglass Boulevard to the west lay Striver’s Row. “How are you coming with Chevy?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Chevy trucks, man. “That’s what you got for me? Nicole had no idea what she had done wrong, but apparently, the spelt was not her only offense. I can pretty much guarantee it, in fact. “Who eats breakfast at night? What, then? The superstar posture had been dropped, but to no positive end. She walked Franklin through her money-raising operation, how much the campaign had already, and what her projected needs were between now and the election. “That is splendid news,” Nicole said. An older man dressed in a natty suit, two young mothers pushing strollers, a deliveryman from a laundry service watched and when Dag finished taking pictures with the boys all of them wanted pictures, too. It was as if they expected her to earn a Ph.D. He had spent the last several nights on a pullout couch in the finished basement. It was still sore. It wasn’t Bruce Lathrop’s fault that she was in this position. “I’ll bring some regular matzo,” Marcy assured her as she began to root around in Nicole’s brimming cart. How did Jay see her? A brackish dive near the train station with a jukebox and cheap drinks, most nights back then it was packed with high school athletes. He had rotten luck. Dag was not sure how to behave in the face of this natural phenomenon. But there was something about these boys, their unbridled joy at spotting him, the pure approbation, no, it was more than that, the worship they radiated as if this were some holy rite and Dag the idol to which they prayed. Her head wrapped in a cloth scarf from which several braids snaked. The two of them were in a booth, and spoke quietly so as not to be overheard. A mixture of men and women, black and white, some in Muslim garb others in street clothes, stood on the sidewalk at the edge of the plaza and Christine had to walk past them to access the parking lot. She climbed to her feet, brushed her jeans off, and trained her gaze on the DA. Together they had told the kids, and neither had taken it well. Forty-five minutes later, briefcase packed with work, Christine Lupo left the building with Sean at her side and headed across the plaza toward the parking lot. “How do you know I met with Gladstone?”
“The man called because he was worried.”
“About what?”
“He was worried you weren’t thinking clearly.”
However true it might have been, the implication did not please Dag, who was getting more worked up. Instead, he did neither, and while two young protesters, a white man and a black woman, threw themselves in front of the car, Sean let the vehicle roll forward. The adults observed the school-kids, impressed with their seriousness of purpose. The waitress arrived and asked Franklin if he’d like to order something, but he waved her away. He had prostrated himself, begged. She told her assistant Kelly to find Lou Pagano. She made an effort to control the timbre of her voice. You remember that? “What do you mean, he’s back? No, he told himself; don’t do that. Several people whooped. She watched with increasing concern as Sean calculated whether he had enough time to floor the gas pedal and, with a hard twist of the steering wheel, skirt the protesters and get away before anything could happen or whether he was going to be forced, by the presence of human beings in front of the vehicle, to come to a complete stop. Audrey was slightly younger, a fact that always reminded Nicole of her own rapidly advancing age, and with great effort, she feigned joy for her friend. But what was the meaning of a solar eclipse? To Nicole, he never seemed like the cheating type, but a therapist had once told her that “love is giving something we don’t have to someone we don’t know,” from which she concluded anything was possible, and that was the most disturbing realization of all. Any references to historical events,
real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. You know, like you? Russell was not a regular churchgoer but he believed in God, and this put him in a knotty position. To turn and walk away was not an option. Presumably, the need to spread his seed was something for which there was no longer a biological imperative. The scene played on an endless loop in her head, and she had to concentrate to think clearly and consistently about her nascent campaign and the duties of her current office. “If the case goes to trial, and I’m not saying it will, we’ll get you a sympathetic jury, and I’m going tell them your story.”
 
The door to the bar opened, and Russell heard the men before he saw them. “All right, then yes.”
She nodded and went to check on the customers down the bar. Jamal would realize his error and come crawling back. She was formidable on her own, and were they not partners? “I’m so sorry, Ms. Jay was always saying he wanted to make her happy. Rinky-dink.”
“I did?”
“You don’t remember? Plesko is clean. She had been turning it over in her mind, examining his words from every angle, and now viewed their spat—was it even a spat? Russell sat across from her in a sports coat and khakis, cap on his lap. As the ambitious politico picked at her salad, the consultant revealed that the initial polling she had commissioned exposed an unfortunate truth: Her name recognition was not as high as either of them had hoped. Jay always made sure she erased them promptly, but Nicole was not going to report any of this to Marcy. It was not an ideal arrangement. Dag believed he only had to survive the current impasse, and all would be well. Now all of it was in jeopardy. He had wanted to provoke him, to provide the shock that would convey the new reality. As his agitation intensified and became personal (Him: “Why are you being such a bitch?”), she resisted the urge to return fire (Her: “I only said you’ll regret your behavior.”), but her lack of aggressive pushback only seemed to embolden Dominic Lupo who, by his account, anticipated being subjected to a brand of torment not meted out since the Spanish Inquisition. Franklin Gladstone was the whale she had been praying for. Without warning the school-kids placed the cardboard boxes over their heads. “Are you free for dinner next week?” Franklin asked. Whatever her problems with the theology—most of it seemed beside the point—the Christian attitude struck Nicole as more, well, “Christian.” She knew that was simplistic, and perhaps even slightly anti-Semitic, but why did religion have to be so demanding? This is how a former high school cheerleader from Virginia came to be pushing a cart down the vegetable aisle in the Mt. She had not brought it up, and Russell did not volunteer information. Jamal’s commission on Dag’s next contract would be several million dollars. “So now you want me to clean up the big mess you made?”
And like it was the most natural thing in the world, Dag said: “Yeah.”
Jamal put his hands in his pockets. And yet now a man was dead, and this death was on him. It’s a terrible thing that happened, but the cop shot a mentally ill individual who was attacking him. “It’s a thing I like to do,” he said. He realized that his leg was bouncing and stopped it. When he said, “I’m joking!” the pair laughed like it was professional comedy. And by the way, I’m not advocating either position, just thinking out loud.”
“I’m not going to indict that guy to get traction in an election.”
Bruce Lathrop held his hands up, palms facing across the booth, stop right there. “You’re gonna keep Dag standing on the stoop?”
 
The man hug with which Dag greeted his former agent caught Jamal by surprise. “Tell me you didn’t wear Purim costumes.”
“It’s not like we’re putting it on the Internet. She was an accomplished woman, hardly a trophy wife.  
As he passed through the front door and stood on the stoop, Dag considered going back to Jamal’s office and apologizing once more. Expensive sunglasses perched on her head.  
That morning he had met with his attorney for the second time, a meeting he had requested. “You want me to let him in or not?” The speaker was Donna, Jamal’s assistant. There were meetings until lunch, which she ate at her desk while reviewing the various prosecutors’ reports on trials currently underway. Russell Plesko lived by the words “peace officer.” It was the first time he had drawn his weapon on the job.  
An hour earlier Nicole was in a Chappaqua cafe eating lunch with her friend Audrey Lindstrom, the thirty-six-year old second wife of an investment banker in his fifties. “I don’t see how we can avoid a grand jury.”
 
Late that afternoon the district attorney looked up from a trial report she was notating to see the jittery Kelly. “Excuse my language.”
The attorney nodded supportively. “I was mad that day at my house, I said some shit I regret, I’m sorry and now let’s you and me get back to business.”
“Did you apologize to Moochie?”
“Why you worried about Moochie?”
Jamal pondered how it was that guys like Dag rarely understood the ramifications of their actions, how because of their ability to put a ball through a hoop, the ordinary laws of human interaction did not apply. Russell had trouble envisioning any return to routine existence, but this gesture showed him he could be accepted back into society despite what he had done. Nicole had never considered having an affair, but she and Jay hadn’t had sex in over a month, and her libido remained vigorous. A breach of decorum that involved verbal abuse was highly unusual. Perhaps Audrey interpreted them as “tears of joy.” It would mortify Nicole if anyone thought she was jealous or, worse, bitter. Greenland’s novel follows Jay Gladstone from his basketball-loving youth to his life as a real estate developer, civic leader, philanthropist, and NBA team owner, and then to it all spiraling out of control. “No, you didn’t.”
“It was hot.”
“You videoed yourselves?”
“For Purim.”
Marcy’s mind spun into orbit. One of her many calculations in marrying Jay was his age and how that would affect his future behavior. White Plains was a mostly middle-class city, and despite pockets of poverty, it was not a bad place to be in law enforcement. There were several murky tattoos on his neck. You were working on endorsements.”
“You forgetting something, Dag?”
“It wasn’t Ford, was it? Harlem, Manhattan, New York City: All dark. Nicole took pleasure in learning about Jewish history and rituals, but when it became apparent how much actual work was involved—familiarity with not only the Torah, but all of the holidays (What was Shemini Atzeret again?), the Mishnah, the Talmud, the Shulchan Aruch, Maimonides’s Guide for the Perplexed, and other texts so numerous her jottings about them filled an entire Moleskine notebook—what seemed an endless list of mysteries all finally blended into one big who-put-the-bop-in-the-bop-shoo-bop and it no longer seemed worth the effort. It was maddening. For a man in his fifties, he had a healthy sex drive. Unafraid of the sidewalk foot soldiers or the judgment of their god, she set her shoulders, quickened her step, and nodded to the police officers. Somehow, the district attorney managed not to weep. Handy, and, more recently, the sports agent Jamal Jones who stood at the second story window in the hallway of the newly renovated brownstone that served as his home and office gazing down at his former client, D’Angelo Maxwell, waiting at the front door below. A bird winging into a room brought bad luck. I’m apologizing to everyone. Across the street, Jamal spotted Trey Maxwell leaning against the McLaren smoking a cigarette. When Nicole had referred to the lox as “smoked salmon” Marcy’s laugh devolved into a fit of coughing, which she recovered from to patronizingly explain that no self-respecting Jewish person would ever refer to lox (“It’s lox for godsakes!”) as smoked salmon (“That’s like calling a bagel a roll!” she pontificated). “How have you been doing?”
“Been better,” he said. Some recent cosmetic injections in her upper cheeks had caused unanticipated swelling. If the case goes to trial, you’ve got a better-than-average chance of beating the charges. Something was going on with him. But now she stood in front of the prisoners unsure what to say. That was horrible but what else could he have done? He’s not from some ethnic group that’s going to rally to his defense.”
“You forget the cops,” she reminded him. This guy’s nuts!” Franklin delivered the words like a punchline, but since they were not funny, he only received forced smiles in response. He genuinely seemed to feel remorse over his recent actions. Visibly provoked by the prisoner’s insolence, Sean asked if she would like him to talk to the guards. It was Nicole’s fifth Passover since beginning her life with Jay and the first one where she had stated her intention to supervise the meal. It would be highly unusual for the district attorney not to convene a grand jury. You were nothing.” Nicole flared, and Marcy quickly said, “Oh, I’m sorry. Costello had avoided any talk about his situation. “This guy goes to trial, anything can happen, and if he winds up in jail, I’m not gonna sleep well for a while.”
Elbows on her desk, Christine made a steeple with her hands and inserted her face. An African-American woman in her forties, she wore a patterned knee-length dress and flats. “Are you sure you have enough matzo?” Marcy said by way of greeting, examining the two boxes of unleavened spelt in Nicole’s cart. Outside the window, a black limousine glided into the parking lot and pulled up to the restaurant door. So, he said nothing. On the one hand, if you want to look at this thing through the self-interest prism, you’re better off not bringing the case to a grand jury.”
“But if I do, then it would look like I had balls.”
“Of course,” he agreed. Since Purim was the holiday where Jews were encouraged by rabbis to wear costumes of the most outrageous kind, drink wine to the point of intoxication, dance in the street—behaviors Marcy would never in a million years engage in, but still—and pursue all manner of licentiousness short of having sex with other people’s spouses, perhaps Nicole was telling the truth. “As I told you when we met the other day, it varies.”
“Is my situation taking longer than usual?”
“If the DA were to make an announcement today, that would fall somewhere into the average length of time. Jamal wanted to ask about California, about the hand injury, but he was still indignant over being fired. All the money I made for you?”
“Ain’t about the money, Dag. Nicole was on her second glass of chardonnay. She intended to transform her pastry-craving middle-aged body into the kind of smoothly humming machine that could better withstand the rigors of a political campaign. “I’m pregnant.”
Although this was the most brilliant announcement imaginable for Audrey, it was the last thing Nicole wanted to hear. Haunted by having witnessed the killing of John Eagle, the beauty of this cosmic wonder, in the presence of D’Angelo Maxwell, was a cherished consolation. Why had Jamal departed from the routine? Christine noticed the woman had unusually long eyelashes. But things did not always go as planned. He took another sip of his beer and peered around the bar. The frustration this engendered and the general sense that something he could not entirely understand had shifted disoriented him. The street, in half-light for a brief period, was now entirely shrouded. He glanced at the men and was pleased to see they remained indifferent to his presence. He believed in signs and warnings. “What are you doing up here, man?” one of the twins asked, his voice pitched high with excitement. But that doesn’t mean you have to start worrying yet. Trey stared at the sun until his brother asked for them back. Dag was signing an autograph for an older woman who had asked him to make it out to her nephew when he noticed a shadow rolling across the street, covering the cars, the asphalt, the facades of the buildings as if a supernatural being was slowly pulling a shade over the sun. “That’s fucked up, Jamal.”
Jamal watched, unsurprised, as Dag rolled his shoulders and strode out of the office. In the office, she pulled up the day’s docket on her computer and quickly determined the name of the belligerent prisoner, then dashed off an email to the trial judge reporting what had just occurred. She handed him a pair of goggles. Russell had parked around the corner. The temperature dipped. The shooting had predictably generated a great deal of local media attention, but after an initial press conference (carried by all the local network affiliates), Christine had kept a low profile. “The reason you’re locked up,” she began, “is that you think the laws don’t apply to you.” Her tone was merciless. His recent attempt at making love lacked passion, which is why she resisted. JUNE 26, 2018

THIS IS PART VIII of LARB’s serialization of Seth Greenland’s forthcoming novel The Hazards of Good Fortune. Russell wished he could stop worrying. Nicole looked around with feigned concern as if atomic secrets were being discussed. He needed to know what was going to happen. If he were allowed to return to his job, perhaps he’d ask to be assigned to the DA’s office. A nerve-jangling telephone conversation with her divorce lawyer took up most of the next hour. Still, he remained on top of the brownstone steps. It helps with digestion.”
“Men and their heartburn,” Marcy said, shaking her head. There was no point in doing that again. “I have news.” Nicole wrenched her mind from her reproductive system. He sucked on large teeth. She offered her apologies for snapping at Lathrop. But now that the baby’s coming, I think I’m going to put it off.”
“Makes sense.”
“But you find jewelry design fulfilling, don’t you?”
“Oh, yes, so fulfilling. What’s the problem?”
“You’re married people.”
“It’s not a sin.”
“You had sex in Purim costumes?”
“I can’t tell you everything.”
“Nicole . . . Ten minutes later he was seated on her office couch, drinking a can of diet soda. With each passing second, the degree to which Dag depended on his former advocate came into sharper focus. “All right if I sit down?”
“Dag, I got a busy day.”
Knowing it was the price he had to pay, Dag remained standing. He had barely finished college not because he couldn’t do the work, but because he wasn’t suited for sitting in a classroom. Deferring to the donor, the consultant shuffled to his Prius. What malevolent imp had placed this woman in her path? “You want another beer?”
“No, thanks, Mrs. She lost her footing and the car knocked her to the ground. “No grand jury,” he said. “This guy’s a genius,” Franklin said. “How long does it usually take before the DA’s office says whether it’s going to put a grand jury on a case?” He hoped that his edginess was not painfully obvious. Along with the apples, there were lemons, walnuts, raisins, and cinnamon for the charoset she was going to make, ingredients for kugel, kreplach, borscht, a root vegetable casserole, and an impressive brisket. If Jamal wanted to throw away what they had built together, let him. All eyes were on them. Mr. The easiest choice would be to bring the case to a grand jury. It was a welcome balm to his spirit on a stressful day. Jamal cracked his knuckles and regarded Dag. Despite Jay’s lack of overt religiosity, and his having never found the time in his packed schedule to visit Israel, he was an ardent Zionist and a staunch defender of the nation (if not every specific policy of whatever government happened to be in power) when friends and acquaintances discussed Middle Eastern politics. “It was like Washington crossing the Delaware. She had faced him down, put him in his place, just like she did that obstreperous prisoner earlier in the day. Having done that, Nicole was now ready to finish the shopping. Two black guys. Dag shared the goggles with Trey, who held them to his eyes and was instantly transported by what he saw. In previous years, they had used caterers who served an elaborate if soulless feast, but this Seder would be prepared in the Gladstone kitchen (by a chef, of course) and have Nicole’s artisanal stamp. A daisy chain of shackled prisoners plodded into a side entrance supervised by several armed guards. When the DA walked away, she repressed the urge to stick her middle finger over her shoulder and flip off the whole group, including the guards. It was the kid in the middle who had spoken. Marcy eyeballed it. Didn’t she live on Long Island? He beckoned Trey over from across the street and told him to take their picture. Costello. Circumstances led him to the house of his brother, a Yonkers firefighter with a wife and three kids. Placating stars was reflexive. “That imam?” Kelly said, “He’s back.” Her tone was apologetic as if Ibrahim Muhammad’s presence was her fault. He believes the officer was justified in his use of force.”
“What’s the cop’s name, Plesko, right?” The DA confirmed this. “What does that have to do with Passover?”
“You brought it up,” Nicole reminded her. A film and TV writer, playwright, and author of four previous novels, Greenland was the original host of The LARB Radio Hour and serves on LARB’s board of directors. The Hazards of Good Fortune will be published in book form by Europa Editions on August 21, 2018. “I got this, Officer,” Sean informed the cop. The drama would leap out of news accounts, and cement her reputation as a woman of both compassion and principle. A robust woman in her sixties with an unlit cigarette dangling from thin lips, Mrs. “With or without the little pill?”
“It’s not always men’s prostates, Marcy. Since Jay was not particularly observant, he lacked the moral authority to press the issue and disappointedly submitted to her announcement that, while she was happy—if he’d like, if he ever wanted, if he insisted—to fast on Tisha B’Av in order to commemorate the destruction of the temple (fat chance), wave a lulav and an etrog around on Sukkot (again, unlikely), light the menorah and exchange gifts during Hanukah (she liked that), and, of course, host the family Seder, she was going to hold off on becoming an actual Jew, particularly if it was going to have no effect on Jay’s desire to have another child. The DA would have more challenging problems than this when she became governor. Christine asked the woman if she was all right. But the more she pondered her options, the knottier the problem seemed. Government employees moved through the twilight in groups of twos and threes toward their cars. “I need to know you’re comfortable,” Christine said. “You’re not serious.”
“I was Esther and Jay was Haman.”
“Okay, you’re kidding, right?” Marcy’s eyebrows, which could still move, had nearly reached the sunglasses on her forehead. Given how they had parted, he was expecting something a little more formal. A solar eclipse. All of them were ignoring Imam Ibrahim Muhammad and his band of demonstrators, who stood quietly holding signs that said INDICT PLESKO, JUSTICE FOR JOHN, and ALLAH WILL JUDGE. She wasn’t sure. That couldn’t be possible. A substantial man in a business suit emerged from the backseat and Christine instantly recognized him. “What’s there to think on?”
“You disrespected me, man.”
People did not say no to men like D’Angelo Maxwell, especially anyone in the position to financially benefit from their talents. Russell thought his interview with Lou Pagano of the Westchester County District Attorney’s office had gone well. I’ll find that judge’s name. “And we convicted the doctor on evidence that was circumstantial,” she reminded the bullet-headed operative. Sideways baseball caps, two Knicks and a Laker. New York City is a union town. I don’t like it, I’m out, but if I like it—”
“You’re in,” Bruce said. “Police violence is a problem, but this is the wrong defendant,” Pagano said. “HEY LUPO, FUUUUCCCKKK YOOOOUUURR AAASSSS!!!”
The man’s voice resonated against the building and into the trees. “If you want a max contract from a major market team, maybe you shouldn’t have beat up Moochie. How much you think I should send him?”
“You’re not hearing me, Dag.”
“What am I not hearing?”
“You fired my ass.”
“I told you, forget that shit.”
“You meet with Gladstone to try to negotiate for yourself, you beat up Moochie, injure your hand.”
“Ain’t gonna miss a single game!”
“That’s great, Dag.”
Dag seemed surprised at the pushback he was getting from Jamal. That was stupid. He hoped it wouldn’t happen. Was he overdue for a checkup? She motioned for him not to move and waited for the officers to take control. Sean held the door open and the DA climbed into the town car. If the encounter bore fruit the Jones Group (he named it “Group” when he learned the Gladstones used the same word) would have a second front. He was going to “think on it”? He drained his soda and crumpled the can. The DA could control the entire process, and she would never have to see the unlucky officer in one of her courtrooms. Wasn’t it something that was in your soul? There were other matters to occupy him and having Dag on his list was no longer essential to the success of his business. She was loading bottles of San Pellegrino water into the cart when she heard an unwelcome voice, at once insinuating and aggressive. The streetlight lit the windshield of Russell’s five-year-old gray Honda Civic unevenly. Potlucks, I mean?”
“We didn’t go to church. It ate at her that despite the high level at which she discharged her duties, brought indictments, and put criminals behind bars, she found herself barely better known than some state senator from Poughkeepsie. When Jay suggested, after they decided to get married, she might want to explore Judaism, or at least take the dreidel out for a test spin, Nicole, always game for new adventures, was willing to investigate the possibility. A group of police officers observed them from a distance. “Are all the parents on board?”
Russell and Mrs. The media had not widely circulated his picture, but he had assumed people would know his identity. But he quickly banished the thought. Sometimes you have to spice things up a little.”
“Oh?”
“Jay and I made a sex tape.”
Somehow Marcy’s eyes widened. “Look, you want to be elected governor, you need to win the city. These arcane requirements never ceased to baffle her. He wore jeans and a sports coat. Joan Abelson certainly seemed untroubled by it. “For her birthday? She met his rage-filled eyes. Jamal’s business was already successful. Should he go back up? She worried that her wine intake was growing at a rate that indicated a prescription for Ativan might be in order. He admired the dispassion lawyers brought to their work. That sound rinky-dink to you?”
“Jamal, from my heart,” Dag said, and pounded his chest with his fist, “I apologize.” He looked out the window as if to draw on the African-American collective capacity for endurance that had manifested on the sidewalks of this venerable neighborhood. Most prisoners had no idea who the district attorney was, saved their fury for the judges, and rarely expressed it out loud. Seventeen stories below, the imam, situated behind a police barricade, led a group of protestors, several of whom held signs she could not make out. Costello, and walked out. All of it spoke to a life independent of D’Angelo Maxwell. There was a slim possibility, however remote that the grand jury would recommend an indictment and then she would be—
This thought was disrupted when she observed one of the prisoners, a hulking white man in his thirties, glaring at her. She had chosen to confront the loudmouth who had yelled the insult, and so she approached him. The moon had slid in front of the sun, and an eerily radiating circular penumbra was the otherworldly result. Bruce Lathrop was a husky man with a shaved head and stubbly face, the combination of which lent him a menacing aspect that he undercut with an open, easy-going manner. “He is.”
“Can he get an erection?”
If Marcy could have opened her eyes any wider, she would have, but surgery had rendered that impossible. Russell tossed a couple of bills on the bar, waved to Mrs. “I’ve been holding out on you,” Audrey said, taking a sip of chamomile tea. “Could’ve been any of them.”
It was rare that Christine made a move not knowing where it would lead. To start with installment one, click here. Loved it!”
Nicole took a sip of wine. Word filtered down the block in both directions, and a flock of students from Medgar Evers Learning Academy came running over from a nearby playground. The boys had abandoned their studied indifference in the presence of this hardwood god. Turning up the collar of his jacket, he wished he could call Christine Lupo. It occurred to Christine, while the event unfolded, that this would be an extraordinary moment to announce that she was convening a grand jury in the Russell Plesko case. Still, Russell was sensitive to the presence of African-Americans, who, he believed, would take a particularly harsh view of what had happened. “I think so.”
“What’s your name?”
“Tamika Crawford.”
Christine noticed her left leg had begun to shake. They all said the same thing. Then came the consultant’s proposal: “But if there was a case that was the right kind of high-profile—” He didn’t need to finish the thought. Two minutes later there were several dozen people on the sidewalk, young, old, different races, and Dag was autographing pieces of paper, and T-shirts and his smile broadened when he signed a Dag Maxwell jersey with a Sharpie someone handed him. That this did not appear to be the case astonished him. The lucrative career in the private sector she had passed up to work twelve hour days for a government salary, dealing with armed criminals, rapists, murderers; her conviction rate was the envy of her colleagues across the country, and yet she remained a nonentity to the public? “Enjoy your day,” she said. Costello.”
He wasn’t in a chatty mood, but Mrs. Now it’s your turn.”
“Just checking all the boxes.”
If Dag heard the judgment in Jamal’s words, he barreled ahead in spite of it. I’m worried about you.”
“I appreciate that. Dag observed the boxes and wondered what they were for. “Do you think you’d like to be a bundler?”
“It would be an honor to encourage my friends to violate campaign finance laws on your behalf.” The DA and the consultant stared at Franklin. Dag heard someone crying. The conversation that had taken place with Jay while horseback riding continued to trouble her. Remember?”
“Yeah, I remember, Dag. “Which one?”
“With the rubies?”
“That one’s nice,” Nicole said. Russell loved being on the force. No one cared if you knew what St. When the protesters recognized the district attorney, the whole scene sprang to life and Ibrahim Muhammad shouted into a bullhorn, “What do we want?” His enthusiastic flock yelled back, “Justice for John!” “When do we want it?” Muhammad loudly asked. Had that been a mistake? Russell lettered in three sports, and he and his teammates were regulars. How she proceeded would have ramifications for her political career and, while it was important to serve justice, she was intent on handling the situation in a way that would redound to her benefit. “Let’s forget it,” Christine said to Officer Malone.  
Chapter Nineteen
 
Religion was not a significant factor in Nicole Gladstone’s suburban Virginia childhood. Christine admired Franklin’s no-nonsense style as it reflected her own. “So, you have a conundrum.”
“That’s your brilliant insight?”
“Hey, don’t kill the messenger,” he said. It was her unstated but firmly held belief that if Jay saw her in this light, as a woman who, however gentile, could nonetheless direct the preparations for this most Jewish of celebrations, the liberation of a people from bondage, perhaps he would unchain her ardent womb. But it was. The boys wore identical low-slung baggy jeans, oversized flannel shirts, and white Jordans accented in ‑multihued palettes. This was Marcy Gladstone, Franklin’s wife. He liked Pagano who did not seem to have a bad attitude about cops but came away from the meeting not sure how it would work out. She wondered if he would seize this chance to clean up his mess. “I also found chopped liver they make from the livers of cage-free chickens,” Marcy said. in Judaism before she would be allowed to take off her clothes and submerge naked into the welcoming waters of the mikveh bath in order to surface as a recognized member of the tribe.  
Christine regarded her dinner companion across the table at the Parkway Diner. “You two should think about it,” Nicole said. “Moochie needed to get schooled,” Dag said. Jamal kept a Louisville Slugger baseball bat near his desk. She could see the computer in Lathrop’s head sort files and bring up a document. I do.”
The tears that had formed in Nicole’s eyes took her by surprise. He was someone who “got things done” and was acquainted with a great many potential donors, two qualities she prized. “But locking up that guy doesn’t make people look at you and think”—here he paused for effect, then said in a stentorian tone—“Governor Lupo.”
Christine examined the combination of greenery in her bowl as if the configuration in which the chef arranged it contained a code that, when cracked, might offer a solution to this riddle. “What’s the name of the prisoner who shouted that obscenity at me, Kimble?”
Kimble looked up and down the hapless row. Sean Purcell increased the length of his strides to keep up with her. This turn came as a surprise to Tamika and she looked at the DA, who understood that an escalation would not be helpful. Her manner was as brisk as her wardrobe, which consisted of a tailored gray pantsuit and a white blouse. “Because of the way you choose to act, you’ll be in front of a judge today. He doubted that would happen.  
When he was in high school and wanted to drink somewhere the management didn’t check IDs, Russell Plesko and his friends went to the Fenian in Port Chester. The man gathered over her like a storm. The result was pulled into a short ponytail. If she chose to read a biography of Spinoza, that was her business. Audrey’s husband already had two older children, which made the entire situation even worse since it nearly mirrored her own. Costello likes you, he’ll talk to anyone who’s got a problem.”
“And Ralphie’s okay with this?”
She told him not to worry about it, everyone would be grateful. “Have you met Franklin?”
“Maybe he’d be into it,” Nicole said. After they viewed the images (which did not include Purim costumes), the couple laughed with a freedom more satisfying than the actual sex. He worked out at a local gym during off hours when he would be less likely to run into anyone he knew. In this environment, you and I both know what can happen, and if it goes in front of a Bronx jury—“
“Why would we get a Bronx jury in White Plains?” Pagano snorted. “Am I forgetting something?” Nicole asked. Business was thriving. She noticed a bus from the County Department of Corrections parked at the side of the building. All that history, their years together held deep resonance. When it appeared that Dag was not going to become violent, Jamal relaxed. She took her entire situation personally. “Can we get a picture with you?” the other twin asked. “Guard!” she barked at the one nearest her, a crew-cut young white guy shaped like a fire hydrant. I put that tournament together with Trey.” Jamal felt he had to namecheck Dag’s brother even though he had done most of the work himself. Nicole adopted his point of view (At dinner parties, she would declare: “The situation is far more complicated than a lot of well-meaning people in the media seem to think.”) and learned to bridle when anyone attacked Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. He appreciated that she seemed to be listening to him and was sensitive to his distress. This would signal that there were no hard feelings. She locked her office door and for five minutes sat in her chair and stared at the framed picture of her children that she kept on her desk. The lawyer sipped a large mug of chai tea. “They’re a group. It was bad enough that Audrey Lindstrom was pregnant. If you accidentally put your clothes on backward, there was money coming. The tall kids were twins. “You fired me.”
“Forget that, Jamal. “All this racial stuff going on now with the cops, no one’s taking them on.”
“You know what happens when you antagonize the police?”
“I’m not saying it wouldn’t be a gamble, but when you take a hard look at your profile, you might want to think about it.”
“Even if I were inclined to do that, this looks like the wrong defendant. Had he even noticed? He seemed to know who she was. You accepted Jesus as your savior, and that was the end of it. How he would manage was not entirely clear. Why was he so against having another child? “What are you doing?”
“Just looking,” Marcy said, innocently. The check came, and Christine grabbed it, but while she was digging into her wallet, Franklin picked it up. The consultant moved over, and the new arrival slid in beside him. They were in Jamal’s office, overlooking the street. You want to spend your time running around upstate putting the Schenectady-Albany-Troy equation together, be my guest, but that’s not how you get elected governor. Dominic Jr. Audrey wore a fedora and large sunglasses even though they were indoors.  
Rain threatened as the district attorney walked from the parking lot to her office accompanied by her vigilant driver, Sean. In light of what the man had inflicted on Moochie Collins, Jamal did not want to forget something he might have done (or that Dag might think he had done) that could be the cause of another violent outburst. “Dunno,” he admitted. And twenty. Studying law interested him. “I’ll see you at the Seder,” she said, and triumphantly thrust her cart down the aisle. My deputy personally interviewed all of the witnesses. Jamal could hear the two junior agents he employed working the phones down the hall. Dag waited. The possibility had not even occurred to her. Her nameplate read “Malone.”
“I’m going to walk you to your car if you don’t mind, m’am,” said Officer Malone. It was a bad situation.”
“The fucking worst,” he said. Almost as impressed with the celestial event she was standing next to as she was with the one occurring in the heavens, Gloria Alvarez took several pictures of Dag with her phone. It was a deeply held belief of Nicole’s that Marcy judged her ability to hew to the holiday traditions and found it wanting. Copyright © 2018 by Seth Greenland
First Publication 2018 by Europa Editions
All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction
in whole or in part in any form. She stood a little taller as she walked to the car, entirely resolved to exploit her new benefactor’s remaining hormones. She enjoyed tweaking the prudish Marcy’s sense of decorum. They both knew professional sports was transactional and that was the level on which 99% of all decisions were made. “I think so.”
When they shook hands, Christine noticed that Franklin held hers too long. Whether or not he was at fault, the remorse at having taken a life weighed on him. “This and that,” Dag said, and regally descended the steps. “Don’t worry about the parents. Although people stared at him in public, and some probably judged him harshly, no stranger had spoken to him since the incident. They had talked about having children. “No one eats a lot of matzo,” Nicole said. “All the drug dealers you lock up, the wife beaters—our research shows that, at least outside of Westchester County, no one cares.”
He chewed thoughtfully on a piece of turkey bacon and let this unappetizing reality sink in. Christine told Sean to let the policewoman do her job, and the three of them continued past the chanting protesters, across the street, and into the parking lot where the DA thanked the officer again. She had been an emotional wreck since viewing the photographic evidence of her husband’s perfidy and Franklin’s attentions had a palliative effect on her feminine ego. “You can’t take it personally.”
The district attorney forked a juiceless piece of tomato into her mouth and chewed but did not notice the lack of taste. As the perspiring district attorney worked out, her uneasy consciousness invariably wandered to the guilt she felt over her divorce, although why she felt guilty mystified her since the whole thing was Dominic’s fault. Or at least he used to. He looked at Lathrop’s plate. “Should’ve won that night,” Dag replied. His play Jungle Rot won the Kennedy Center/American Express Fund For New American Plays Award and the American Theater Critics Association Award. He was a writer-producer on the Emmy-nominated HBO series Big Love. “No,” Marcy said, in a way that conveyed yes. That there would be no Jew supervising the kitchen of the Seder family obligation forced her to attend rankled Marcy almost as much as the concept of her cousin-in-law’s intermarriage. He and his wife fought constantly, and their bickering caused the baby to cry incessantly. When the procession continued to snake into the building the district attorney lowered her voice an octave and commanded:
“HALT!”
The guards and prisoners ceased moving because they were accustomed to following orders. To pre-order on Indiebound, click here; on Amazon, click here; at Barnes & Noble, click here. In the early evening on this weeknight, he sat alone at the bar sipping his second beer. “What happens if we’re not in business together?”
“The lawyers and accountants sort it out.”
“That’s how you gonna be?”
“I told you I’d think about it.”
The ongoing ambiguity was more than Dag could take. Costello’s offer of a coaching opportunity was like seeing an angel slide. That morning he had met with a television production company in Midtown to pitch an idea for a show. First Gladstone, then Brittany, now Jamal all were undermining the foundations of his existence. “They have a right to be there if that’s what they want.”
“Should I have Sean bring the car around the back of the building?”
“I’m not scared of them,” the DA said. Kisco Whole Foods on a March afternoon, shopping for the ingredients to make charoset in preparation for her Seder. If you declared yourself a Christian, you were a Christian. He doesn’t care,” Lathrop explained. Russell found the scent relaxing. After that, there were drinks with an agent in town from Atlanta with whom he was thinking of partnering. The science teacher suggested he not look directly at the sun. Arrange for one and the police would hate her. The echo was not forthcoming. To deal with someone like Marcy, it’s sometimes necessary to move from a stance of receptivity to one of artfully couched aggression. “But it would be a publicity bonanza.”
“People already say I’m too in love with the cameras.”
“You can’t be successful in this business if you hang back,” he pointed out. “Them kids had a helluva squad. They saluted her. While Nicole was not Jewish, the fact of her marriage rendered her, in real estate terms, Jew-adjacent and as a result, she lived a kind of a dual life. By the time she hung up on him, the window in which she could accomplish anything having to do with her actual job had slammed shut. The work in Washington on the Congressional Ethics Committee attested to that. Mrs. Nicole swallowed the last of her wine. Putting the humanitarian concern aside, running over a pedestrian was not the best way to kick off a political campaign. “Jay likes it. Although Nicole harbored a sentimental attachment to seasonal tropes—the carols, the eggnog, the Charlie Brown Christmas Special with its undercurrent of melancholy that transported her back to lonely childhood—he refused to have a Christmas tree in the house (“It reminds me of two thousand years of Christian anti-Semitism,” he said) so Hanukah became her domestic marker for the arrival of winter. It was evident something was wrong when he turned on to the side street where his car was parked. The thought that two married people, at least one of whom was Jewish, had made a sex tape was like telling her there were eleven commandments. It was meant to be decorative but would serve as protection if Dag came at him. “And their prostates.”
This declaration caused Nicole to reflect on Jay’s health. You’re right about that.”
“Tell the truth. The White Plains Police Department had placed him on administrative leave and confiscated his firearm. He tensed. They were talking about a school board meeting that had occurred the previous evening. “Nicole!”
A slightly plump middle-aged woman wearing a forest green tracksuit with white piping and tennis shoes was piloting a shopping cart in the opposite direction. The bartender approached him, wiping a glass. She was not remotely attracted to anything about her new admirer other than the size of his investment portfolio but was nonetheless flattered. Her counterfeit smile failed to find its target, now squinting at the ingredients on a carton of chicken broth with the same discernment she brought to the offending matzo. Back in Washington after having pulled the plug on her modeling career, the overt religiosity of many of the politicians she encountered (and her belief that this fervor often seemed motivated more by political expediency than authentic religious feeling) was not appealing, and further rendered any thought she entertained of exploring her nominally Christian roots a nonstarter. We boys. Donna was Jamal’s majordomo, taking care of his scheduling, travel, and the day-to-day operations of the Jones Group. Joan Abelson was a lawyer at Rose, Gardener & Seligman in downtown White Plains. I didn’t mean it in a negative way.”
“I would never take it like that,” Nicole lied. It was all she could do to keep from ordering a third glass. “I think so,” she said. There were fifteen inmates in this human bracelet of unlucky charms. “You know what I’m talking about.”
“So give the cops exactly what they want,” she said. For all Dag’s superstar affectations, Jamal believed somewhere inside lived the humble kid he first encountered at the McDonald’s All-Star Camp when they were in high school. As for spring, its advent was Passover. In the morning, he would put on sunglasses and pull a trucker cap low over his eyes before he left for the day. The encounter had been friendly, and Russell told his story from every possible angle. Her russet hair naturally fell in tight coils, but the industrial-strength straightening solution her stylist employed gave the tresses a wiry quality. At least his voice was forceful. Now Jamal stood in front of his desk and, pointedly, did not offer Dag a seat. “So, he called you?”
“The guy likes you, D’Angelo.”
“He’d kick me to the curb like a ten-dollar ho.”
Jamal ignored this. Several demonstrators surrounded the victim, including Imam Ibrahim Muhammad. The illumination reflected in intricate patterns on both lateral extremes, but the middle was bashed clean through and swallowed the glow like a dead star. He squinted into the sun. Costello didn’t move. Her inability to come to a decision was something that she would be happy to lay at her husband’s feet if that were not a sign of mental weakness. “I’ll bring that, too.”
“It’s not a potluck. Her parents were vaguely Protestant but neither attended church, so other than Christmas, which in the Pflueger home was more about Santa Claus, gifts, and candy canes than anything having to do with the birth of Jesus, there were no markers of the season aside from a liberally tinseled tree. Ibrahim Muhammad asked if she wanted an ambulance and Tamika Crawford said no, I didn’t hit my head, so let’s just get on with it. He had done enough apologizing. She knew what Bronx jury meant. “Just let her go.”
While this was going on several security guards poured out of the building and with their assistance the police detail herded the protesters back across the street. The two women had met on a committee to plan a gala for the Guggenheim Museum and, upon discovering that they were both former models and second wives of successful businessmen with homes in northern Westchester, established a friendship. Since the shooting, his days had taken on a strange texture. You don’t have to bring anything.”
“Did they have those at your church? The three of them exchanged pleasantries, then Franklin declared the preliminaries over and requested that they discuss the reason he’d driven up to White Plains. “I had been considering starting a business,” Audrey said. One of the downsides of marrying someone twenty years older was the Prostate Years came earlier. He hustled into the diner and seconds later was hovering over their table. Against her better judgment, she took a call from her husband, who let her know that he had no intention of taking a beating in the division of their assets. Marcy weighed whether to share anything other than her disdain with Nicole. “What good could come of it?”
“It would be unusual.”
“I talked to the witnesses myself, Christine. Nicole could not fathom why the Jewish people, a tiny minority of the world’s population, did not allow anyone who wanted to share their joys and lamentations to do so without delay. You gotta make inroads down there. Some stared at nothing, submitting meekly to their fate, others eyed the DA with a mixture of fear and contempt. Police officers sprinted from the plaza to chase them down. The department certainly was not going to put him back on the street anytime soon. They were still engrossed in conversation. “I’ve already vetted you on policy,” he said. “I would love that,” she said, deploying the word love strategically with the expectation her new patron would derive warmth from his proximity to its sound. That her frustration had revealed itself further frustrated the DA. To Christine’s immense relief, the woman did not appear to be badly hurt or hurt at all. “How are you doing, Russell?” Her voice held a lifetime of Virginia Slims. To not convene a grand jury would send the message that she was insensitive to the needs of the community. stared at the floor and, when his sister’s crying jag subsided, asked if he could live with his father. “That’s true.”
“It’s impossible to tell how this is going to play out?”
“Russell, look, as I said, this is a serious case that will have ripples far beyond you and your situation. ¤
Seth Greenland is the author of five novels. His latest, The Hazards of Good Fortune (Europa Editions), will be published in 2018. Who cared what she thought about the Talmud? “Marcy,” Nicole trilled. Blond hair cut short, two gold studs in her left ear. “I have some ideas.”
It sounded as if he were asking her on a date. “I gave one of your necklaces to a friend,” Audrey said, picking at a crab salad. In his view, he had not sinned. She waited for him to talk but Russell was not sure exactly what to say. His friends on the police force called but he parried their invitations to grab lunch or drinks. Dag had called and texted but Jamal, still smarting from being fired, had not responded. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing, nothing.” She produced a tissue from her bag and daubed her cheeks. Did you make a sex tape?”
Early in their marriage she convinced Jay to make tapes of their lovemaking—the usual gymnastics as well as some light bondage that mostly involved the creative application of her pashmina collection—and in a postcoital haze watch them on her laptop. Franklin listened intently, nodding as she enumerated the challenges of putting a donor network together. “I put you in this townhouse, man. “Which was impressive, don’t get me wrong,” he said, awarding her the booby prize of his approbation. If he was intimidated by the presence of the district attorney his behavior did not reflect it. It was Chevy, right?” Dag grinned and waited for Jamal to reciprocate. But if he were feeling dissatisfied in the marriage, if he were no longer finding the emotional sustenance it was meant to provide, then perhaps he was searching for it elsewhere. As Sean backed out of the parking space, turned the wheel, and made for the exit, her mind strayed back to the upsetting conversation with her husband, and it took her a moment to realize that a wedge of activists had broken from the group and swarmed across the street toward her car. Methodists, Episcopalians, Baptists, none of them required aspirants to pass a religious exam. “My wife and I would like to host a fundraiser for you at our home.”
Christine’s eyes melted. A hundred. To this end, she rolled out of bed each day at five-thirty, was picked up by Sean Purcell (more than happy to book the additional overtime), and was driven to the gym where she stretched, jogged on a treadmill, and lifted weights for an hour. “I think that’s a Hungarian name, probably Catholic, which falls under the heading of white European. A landmark block in Harlem, for more than a hundred years it has been a home to African-American notables like Eubie Blake, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, W.C. Already said I was sorry to Church, Gladstone, and the team. It was early evening and the air had chilled. Dag thanked her, slipped them on, and faced the sky. She’s not taking too long.”
““I’ve been reading about grand juries.”
“And what have you learned?”
“They can be unpredictable,” Russell said. The crowd, so festive, had quieted. Dag continued to examine the display of framed photographs: Jamal’s high school and college teams, Jamal with various sports and entertainment celebrities, Jamal with his wife and two young daughters. When she found herself reading the same document for the third time, it occurred to her that the decision regarding the Plesko situation was having a greater effect on her ability to concentrate than she had realized. She looked around to make sure no one was listening. He enjoyed the shift in their power dynamic although he took pains not to show it. Somehow, she believed Obama was responsible for the position she was in. The DA jumped out of the car and kneeled by the woman. Did it rise to that level?—as indicative of an ungraspable marital fissure. Anyone wanting a more hardcore experience had the option of being dunked in a baptismal font. “Sorry I’m late,” Franklin Gladstone said. Although she found the lighting of Sabbath candles unutterably beautiful, to Nicole the Jews remained inscrutable. Christine smiled, pleased by Franklin’s enthusiasm. They carried cardboard boxes and were accompanied by their Latina science teacher. Maybe you remember this: The last contract I negotiated for you paid a hundred and twenty million. Ballers. That ain’t franchise player behavior.”
In the course of their friendship, Jamal had never once castigated Dag. His life had been in danger. He had planned to work for twenty years then pension out, buy a weekend cabin upstate, spend time in the woods with his family. Down the bar, one of the commuters ordered a refill. One of the walls was a gallery of framed photographs, several of which were of Jamal and Dag: at the Super Bowl, on vacation in Mexico, on the court at Sanitary Solutions Arena, all suffused with a bonhomie that reflected their years of friendship. I’m not going to ask you to apologize because if you had the brains to do that, you probably wouldn’t be here today.” The prisoner regarded her from his lofty height with what looked to Christine like indifference. He recognized her message. Reporters waited for him outside his apartment building. “You told me I was bush league, Dag. “I can tell you I’m nearly always the smartest person in the room,” the hereditary kingpin assured them. It’s not like she wanted to be a rabbi. Balls and integrity in a single package.”
“Not that I would ever think that way,” the DA said. For the player, this represented an unwelcome new day in their relationship. He pinched the brim of his cap, now resting on his thigh. “You think I should indict the cop who killed the civilian?”
“Not for political reasons, that’s for sure.” He tore a piece of wheat toast, dipped it in a pool of egg yolk, placed it in his mouth, chewed and swallowed. As the boys gathered around Dag to immortalize the experience, other passersby stopped. In the office?”
“No, out front. “Indulge me.”
In the parking lot, Franklin asked Lathrop if he might have a private word with the district attorney. I’m gonna write Moochie a check. The reply: “Now!”
One of the police officers, an imposing black woman, detached from the group of cops and appeared at the DA’s side. Had the bombastic O’Rourke, the head of the police union, intimidated her? He had no idea. The windows of buildings dulled. It had been taken the previous summer at the D’Angelo Maxwell Summer Charity Basketball Tournament and showed Dag and Jamal posing with the winning team, a group of gangly teenagers, everyone happy. Several of the adult bystanders looked toward the sky, but the science teacher warned everyone not to. This breathtaking contravention of habitual expectations that held everyone’s attention transfixed and unsettled Dag. The one in the middle was average sized, but his sidekicks were at least six five. He rubbed his knee, the one that had buckled on him that awful morning. Agents did not refuse opportunities like this. His was fleshy and slick like an eel. Jay did not reciprocate. “I’m thrilled for you.”
 
Nicole sorted through a pile of Granny Smith apples in Whole Foods, pleased that she had repressed the impulse to get drunk. He had caused it. What up, G?”
Dag peered down the steps. Despite the hour, Lathrop had ordered breakfast. He had a disturbing vision of life without Jamal. “You’d probably feel better about yourself.”
“I feel fine about myself.”
“Then don’t do anything.”
Nicole bared her teeth in what a passerby would swear was a smile. He knew Dag was going to return eventually. What do you think all that begat-begat-begat was?”
“They didn’t tape themselves.”
“Oh, touché, Marcy. It wasn’t as if he would be the one getting up to do the middle-of-the-night feeding, cleaning the spit up from his pajamas. “Hey, I would never suggest anything so cynical,” he assured her. Was his refusal a sign of both the emptiness of those words and the lack of seriousness with which he viewed their marriage? Then, “San Pellegrino?”
“What’s wrong?”
“It’s not exactly seltzer.”
Nicole reflected that if she were to become the Grand Rabbi of the Satmar Hasidim, somehow, she still wouldn’t be Jewish enough for Marcy. He did not want the lawyer to think he was nervous. He glanced at the windows of Jamal’s office. “We saw you play the Celtics,” the non-twin said. I ain’t gonna apologize again.”
“You wouldn’t let anyone diss you the way you dissed me.”
The degree of resolution Jamal exhibited left Dag unmoored. I hosted a delegation of them in my office to discuss this, and I can tell you, they’ll be upset.”
“They’re always upset. Accustomed to far worse from egotistical, narcissistic politicians, he told her not to worry about it. A couple of dull-faced commuters nursed restorative cocktails nearby. Marcy’s attempt to hide her disappointment when Nicole told her she had abandoned her plans to convert was unsuccessful. This criminal was obviously someone who watched local television. He quickly reviewed any grievances Dag might be nurturing. But look, since you’ve been in office, you haven’t had a genuinely sexy case.”
“I was on TV for an entire month when we put away the doctor who killed his wife’s boyfriend. Your record is exemplary, you’re active in youth sports. He hardly seemed overly concerned with her rejection of his advances. This was when they were supposed to clasp hands, embrace, and then go out to the lunch Dag had offered to pay for. “Forget Moochie, man. “Is Franklin having problems with his?”
Marcy seemed taken aback by the question. “You need to serve justice,” Tamika said. Rooted there was a trio of black teenagers. Dag smiled ruefully. She finished packing the apples into a plastic bag, fastened it with a tie, placed it in her cart, and moved to the beverage aisle. Costello was married to the owner. I saw the video the maintenance guy took with his phone. There, he would thrash for hours, unable to sleep. He did not. He had apologized already. ¤
This book is a work of fiction. “I need you, man.”
Jamal reached up and placed a hand on Dag’s shoulder. He glanced at the black men. Christine stopped and watched this motley array of pimps, drug dealers, armed robbers, check kiters, serial shoplifters, deadbeat dads, and sex offenders as they shuffled into the building and imagined Russell Plesko in their ragged midst. The shorter kid produced a phone and handed it over. Following some research, she enrolled in a conversion class taught by a young female rabbi with a halo of curls and a welcoming manner at a Conservative synagogue on the Upper West Side and dutifully attended for several months. The white man jumped out of the way, but the black woman did not move quickly enough. Dag had interacted with the public for so long it was part of the fabric of being Dag Maxwell, and he did it like punching a clock. They were expecting someone else to join them. It was a puzzle. The first time they had met was at a family brunch. Sean jammed the brakes as the cops corralled the unruly mob. He went less regularly now but could usually count on seeing a friendly face.  
Chapter Twenty
 
In the gray dawn light that filtered through the windows of the Crush It health club, a caffeinated Christine Lupo pumped iron in the company of other early risers. “You sure you’re okay?” Officer Malone asked the protester, who was examining a scrape on her elbow. Why was the decision to convene a grand jury proving such a challenge? He knew he needed to ask a question before she told him she had work to do and would call when there was news. He prepared himself for the worst. “What about all the times I’ve been on television?”
“The TV has mostly been local, so some people in the city know you, but upstate, no one.” He saw her reaction to this, a barely perceptible downturn of her coral lips, and said, “Hey, you’re not paying me to sugarcoat it, right? Could it be that he was the one having an affair? Since he was young, he had wanted to be a cop. Of course, that was hardly better than medicating herself with wine. Recently, she had been working exclusively with sapphires because of Jay’s Brooklyn project of that name, believed it to be good for marital karma. “Too many carbs. Several shoppers grazed passively nearby, none paying attention to the Gladstone women. The judge is going to know what you said to me, and he or she will enter it on your record. Ain’t about the money for you, either.”
Dag gestured toward the room, its high ceilings and ornate moldings, all exquisitely restored. “Making a tape?”
“Ask your rabbi.”
“I should ask Rabbi Nachman for permission to make a sex tape with Franklin?” Marcy hooted. You got lunch plans?”
“Yeah.”
“Cancel ’em. that’s sacrilegious, isn’t it?”
“Come on; it’s not like people in the Bible didn’t have a ton of sex. They waited. That was their essential dynamic. CNN did that story on the nightly news.”
“Joe Blow in Buffalo? And I’ll tell you something else—he’s a nice kid, married with a baby, spotless department record, youth league coach. It allowed him to interact with new people each day and he enjoyed the respect they showed him. ¤
Chapter Eighteen
 
On West 139th Street between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. It was bad enough she had cried in front of her friend. She loved it. Given the state of limbo he currently occupied, the idea of making plans was something he had not considered. The flock called encouragement, wished him luck in the playoffs (they assumed the team would get there), assured him no one cared about what had happened in California. With some friends.”
Christine rose from her chair, crossed to the window, and looked toward the plaza in front of the building. He smiled ingratiatingly at the DA and introduced himself to Lathrop. He was a force she could harness. “I’m gonna think on it, Dag.”
Dag stepped back and looked at Jamal as if he were some bizarre animal species of whose existence he was previously unaware. They drank tequila sunrises, ate beer nuts or pickled eggs, then drove back to their family homes careful to go just under the speed limit. “Frankly, I think voters prefer balls to integrity.”
“New York is full of liberals who might be pro-union, but they’re not particularly pro-police, and it would look like I had more integrity if I did, right? Instead, she wished Tamika Crawford well, expressed her gratitude to the police, and asked Sean to take her to the Parkway Diner. What are you doing up here?”
“I was visiting a friend who just put in a new tennis court and I thought I’d get some shopping done before I drove home. And balls.”
“Look at what happened when Reagan fired the air traffic controllers,” Lathrop said, wistful at the memory of the routed labor movement. “What’s your name?”
“Officer Kimble,” he said in a voice suddenly flush with authority. I’m taking you out, my treat.”
“Dag—”
“I owe you an apology, man.