Patricia Hirsh opened the door before he had a chance to ring. “Thank you for coming so quickly, Officer.” Although she was obviously agitated, her voice was controlled.
“Just as soon as we got the message, ma’am.” He took out his notebook and pencil from the thigh pocket of his uniform. “Now, can you tell me what your husband was wearing?”
“Oh.” She went to the hall closet. “A light topcoat-it’s gray, dark gray herringbone. And-no, his hat is here. Underneath he had on a regular business suit-dark brown.”
“And can you give me a description of him, height, weight, and so on?”
“He’s quite plump. He weighs about a hundred and ninety pounds and is about five three.” As he looked up involuntarily, she said, “Yes, he’s shorter than I am. He’s also quite a bit older. He’s fifty-one, and bald,” she added defiantly, “with a moustache.”
“You got a picture of him, ma’am?”
“Yes, upstairs in the bedroom. Would you like me to get it?”
“If you please.” As she started for the stairs, he called after her, “I’ll just give this information to my partner outside so he can call it in right away.”
At the car he asked Tommy if there had been any calls. His partner shook his head, then said: “Better check out the house, Joe. The garage door, I notice it’s down. When we first came on duty about eight o’clock a number of them were up. Probably because so many people were over at the temple.”
“Okay, I’ll check it. Meantime, call in this description.” And after repeating what Mrs. Hirsh had told him, he went back to the house. She was waiting for him with the picture. He took it, studied it for a moment, then said gently, “You haven’t noticed anything missing, have you?”
“I haven’t looked. Like what?”
“Well, like whiskey-”
“We don’t have it in the house.”
“I don’t use it.”
“Maybe bay rum or rubbing alcohol?”
“No, nothing like that.”
“All right, ma’am. We get right on to it. Why don’t you just go to bed. I’ll let myself out through the back.”
“That only leads to the garage.”
“Never hurts to look around, ma’am.”
“You’ll call me-no matter what time, won’t you?”
“Sure will.” Making his way through the kitchen to the garage, he opened the back door, and then quickly closed it behind him. The car was in the garage, and on the front seat, on the passenger side, was Isaac Hirsh.
Even slim as he was, it was a tight squeeze for Joe between the wall of the garage and the car, but he managed. He opened the front door and leaned across the driver’s seat to touch the man. By the light of his flashlight he noted the position of the key in the ignition switch. He noted the half-empty vodka bottle. Then he withdrew and closed the car door. Squeezing his way to the front of the garage he raised the overhead door just enough to duck under, and pulled it down after him.
He got into the cruising car, but as the driver started to shift into gear he held onto his hand. “No, Tommy, we’re not going anywhere. I’ve found him. He’s in the garage.”
“Dead to the world?”
“Yeah, only this time it’s for good.”
The daylong Yom Kippur services began at nine with the recital of morning prayers. Only a handful of people were in the temple, mostly the older men, and on the platform only the rabbi was in his seat. Even the cantor had not yet arrived, since it was customary to have someone else lead the morning service to give him a measure of relief. The honor usually went to Jacob Wasserman, the first president of the temple and the man who more than anyone else had organized the congregation. His voice made up in genuine fervor what it lacked in volume, and the rabbi enjoyed his chanting with its traditional quavers and trills more than the studied effects of the cantor who surreptitiously would stoop and tap his tuning fork and hum the pitch before beginning a chant.
The congregation kept drifting in all morning. Shortly after the cantor took his seat, Mortimer Schwarz appeared. He shook hands ceremoniously with the rabbi, and then crossed over to shake hands with the cantor. He returned to his seat and whispered that, just as he had expected, Marvin Brown called last night.
“You mean about the honor he missed?”
“Well, Rabbi, he didn’t come right out and say so, but I know that’s what it was.”
“I wouldn’t have thought it meant so much to him.”
“Oh, I don’t think he’s particularly religious. But he’s a salesman first, last, and always. And, something like that, he builds it up in his mind as kind of good luck. And if he should somehow miss out, it could throw him off stride. Do you understand?”
“I can understand how he might feel that way,” said the rabbi.
“Well, I don’t mind saying I felt Ely Kahn kind of jumped the gun by going ahead and opening the Ark when Marvin didn’t come down right away. Nothing terrible would have happened if we’d waited a few minutes. Anyway, today I’m going to be extra careful. I’ll call out these names good and loud, and we’ll wait until we’re sure the person is not in the temple before picking a substitute.”
By a quarter past ten, when the Scrolls were removed from the Ark for the Reading, the sanctuary was full. Some chose to regard this point in the service as a recess; and while a few left, most remained. For the Memorial Service for the Dead that followed, the Yizkor service, the sanctuary filled up again. Many came just for this portion out of a sense of respect for departed members of their immediate family. Traditionally it was considered bad luck for anyone whose parents were alive to be present, but the rabbi, like most Conservative rabbis, felt this to be idle superstition. He began by explaining that it was proper for all to attend, that since those who had died in the Nazi holocaust were going to be memorialized, everyone could consider himself bereaved; but here and there he could see some of the older congregants brought up in Orthodoxy urge their children to leave.
However, after Yizkor he could not help feeling pleased to note a large portion of the young people return, presumably to hear his sermon. One portion of the Holy Day service described the way the High Priest of ancient times purified himself and his family before making the sacrifice to atone for the sins of his people. The sermon discussed this portion of the service, comparing this with the attempted sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham-a reference to the New Year Reading on Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the ten Days of Awe. With many a rabbinic allusion, he explained that the sacrifice of Isaac was a stern injunction against the human sacrifice that was universally practiced at the time, and then went on to show how the whole concept of sacrifice and atonement had gradually changed from sacrificing a live scapegoat to the modern attitude toward prayer, which meant begging forgiveness-from the Lord for sins committed against Him as well as from individuals for sins committed against them.
As in all his sermons, the tone and style was instructional and informal, like a college lecture. He himself thought of his sermons as theses in which he attempted to explain seeming contradictions in the Law, rather than as exhortations. He knew some members of the congregation, including the president, grew restive during his discourse, and would have preferred a more oratorical, hortative style, but he felt his type of sermon was more in keeping with his basic function of teacher, implicit in the word “rabbi.”
The service continued, the day wore on; people came and left, some to go home for a nap or perhaps even a hurried snack, while outside, boys and girls stood about in their new clothes, laughing and flirting. The very young played on the temple grounds, their high shrill voices sometimes disturbing the decorum inside, requiring one of the ushers to go out and lecture them for making noise while the service was in progress.