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Diamonds Never Die Free Chapters

Diamonds Never Die

 

Prologue

New York City is the greatest city in the world. New York City is the worst city in the world. Pick your poison. You will find differing opinions among any ten people you ask about the Big Apple. The Big Apple. The experts can’t even agree on who came up with that moniker.

The heart of the city occupies the island of Manhattan—and occupation is the only word to describe the one and a half million people who call it home. Twenty-two square miles with an estimated one and a half trillion dollar yearly GDP.

Put that many people that close together with that much money, and there’s bound to be friction. The never-sleeping sharks of the New York press troll the island waiting for the next body to fall.

The headlines herald the scandalous, heaping indiscriminate muck on the heads of those who dare to rise above the madding crowd. None are exempt, not powerful politicians, religious icons or Wall Street wunderkind. No one escapes, from the hedonists like Mayor Gentleman Jimmy Walker and Governor Eliot Spitzer, to the service providers like the Mayflower Madam and Heidi Fleiss.

The famous make easy targets, from actress Mary Astor’s sizzling (for the time) sexual diaries and Mae West’s Broadway show aptly titled Sex, to Anthony “the wiener” Weiner’s absurd sexting during his run in politics. Plumbing the depths of depravity makes for great news.

The religious have had no sanctuary, from Preacher Beecher, the nineteenth century Protestant minister with a sexual appetite for his congregation’s wives, to Rabbi Bernard Bergman, the proprietor of a chain of nursing homes who was convicted of defrauding the state government of millions in Medicaid funds.

Among the infamous were outright thugs like William M. Tweed of Tammany Hall fame. Others were not as obvious. In a town that is home to mega-banks as well as the New York and NASDAQ stock exchanges, the brightest capitalists profit and their praises are sung right up to the moment their true criminality is exposed. From inside trader Ivan Boesky to Richard Whitney, the VP of the New York Stock Exchange who stole millions for himself, to Bernie Madoff who bilked billions and nearly collapsed whole countries, many have succumbed to the siren call of easy money.

Viewed from outside, the city is Sodom and Gomorrah, the pinnacle of success, or both, depending solely on personal taste. However, for those living in the city, the view becomes much simpler. Opinion of New York City is a matter of direction—those on their way up and those on the slide down to, at best mediocrity and, at worst oblivion.

Despite the press and their piranha appetite for tearing the flesh off anyone who courts success, there are many people who remain under the radar. These are the hard working individuals who fuel the engines of industry. Mary Bloomfeld was one of these people.

“Hello, Mary,” said her uncle Avram, the manager of Goldfarb Diamonds, one of the many diamond exchanges in Manhattan. He had taken Mary under his wing and gotten her a job with the firm right out of accounting school.

“Good morning, Mr. Bloomfeld,” said Mary. It was a daily ritual they started on her first day, when Avram had explained the need for propriety in the office and that calling him Uncle Avie would not do. After punching in, Mary walked straight to her office in the back. Out of sight, out of trouble, was Mary’s life philosophy. She spent most days alone updating and cross-checking inventory and records. She brown-bagged her lunch, partly to save money and partly to preserve her precious anonymity. Although her secret goal was to find a husband, it never occurred to Mary that she would not likely meet him tucked away in the accounting office. Mary was a good Jewish woman who was confident that if she kept her head down, did a good job and went to temple every week God would take care of the rest. So Mary did her work, putting order into the records she knew were vital to the company. Keeping order made her happy. It was all part of God’s plan.

Today was different. Today she was failing. Order would not come. No matter how many times she redid the figures and reweighed and recounted the inventory, the totals would not add up. She redoubled her efforts, checking figures and weighing diamonds. It had to be a simple oversight. Her uncle must have transferred money to one of the accounts where she had no access, or a shipment was not yet logged. She went to see him but he was standing with a man in an expensive suit showing him diamonds. The hard fast rule in the store was never to interrupt Mr. Bloomfeld when he was with a customer. After ten minutes, the man was still inspecting diamonds and didn’t appear close to making a decision. Mary returned to her office.

When the day neared an end, for the first time Mary’s ledger would not balance. She looked up at the yellow sunflower clock she had mounted on the wall next to her desk. Seventeen minutes past five. Her uncle was a stickler about paying no overtime and insisted she punch out by five thirty.

With thirteen minutes left to make things right, Mary had to find the error fast. Necessity being the mother of invention, she did something she had never done before. She decided to get creative. There had to be an explanation, an entry somewhere that would bring back the order she craved. She just needed to find it. However, only her uncle had access to the main accounting program. Once she had seen him enter his password on her computer, but at the time she had made an effort to forget it. If she could recall it now, perhaps she could find the missing transaction and finish reconciling her accounts. She remembered it was his wife’s name and their wedding anniversary. The name, year and month came to her easily. She had a good memory, especially for numbers. For some reason she couldn’t get the day. She tried the tenth, and the computer flashed “invalid password” in taunting red letters on the screen. She punched in the twentieth, but got the same result. She would get only one more try before the system locked her out. Deciding to split the difference she held her breath and retyped the password. After the longest pause the screen changed to a menu of options. She was in. Two more keystrokes brought up the main accounting program. She stopped typing and wrinkled her brow. There were three more accounts in the file than she expected as well as a database, and nothing was clearly labeled. It was a chaos of information that she could never resolve—not in the eight minutes that remained of her day.

Mary looked up at the clock and made a second creative decision. She would copy the relevant files and take them home with her, staying up all night if she had to until she reconciled the accounts. She would do it off the clock, on her own time. It was the least she could do. Her uncle expected the books to balance, and that’s what he would get. Once the numbers were reconciled, she could easily update the files first thing in the morning. Uncle Avie would never need to know.

She dug her key chain out of her purse. It was a silver Star of David her mother had given her when she graduated as a CPA. The chain held three keys, a tiny push button flashlight and what looked like a slim Piezo cigarette lighter. She plugged her flash drive into the computer and looked up at the clock. Five twenty-six. She would have to hurry. With no time to sort through files, she chose “select all” and pressed “download.” Three minutes later the download finished. She shut off her computer, threw her key chain into her purse and ran out of the office and down the hall skidding to a stop in front of the antique time clock that hung on the wall. She shoved in her time card and pulled it out. Five thirty on the nose.

“Good night, Mr. Bloomfeld,” said Mary, as she passed her uncle’s office.

“Have a good evening, Mary,” said Avram.

Mary took the subway to the other side of Central Park, returning to the street level only two blocks from her home. The apartment her uncle had arranged for her was less than half a mile from the diamond exchange, but Mary didn’t like crossing the park after work.

Once in the comfort of her own home, it didn’t take long to find the error. Her uncle had transferred funds and forgotten to enter the amount in her account. There was a small discrepancy in the inventory, but only a half dozen stones that were probably with the jeweler being cut and fitted into settings. She would verify that with her uncle in the morning. For now, the books were balanced, order was restored and Mary slept peacefully through the night.

While walking to the subway entrance the next morning Mary remembered the birthday card she had purchased. Tuesday was her cousin Raphi’s sixteenth birthday and her mother had insisted she mail him a card. Mary continued another two blocks past the subway until she spotted a mailbox. After putting her purse on top, she pulled out the envelope and pen. She hurriedly scribbled an address and sealed the card inside, dropping the envelope into the mail slot. Seeing that she was now across from the entrance to Central Park, Mary decided it would be faster to walk to work.

It was a sunny and clear day, and the azaleas were already in bloom. A pair of fit young women jogged toward her on the path, reminding Mary of the diet she was planning to start. The women nodded as they passed by. A hundred feet farther a man in a Yankee’s baseball cap approached slowly on foot. The bill of his cap was pulled too low for Mary to see his face. She instinctively pulled her keys from her purse, fumbling to arrange them between her fingers as a weapon the way her self-defense teacher had instructed. The man walked steadily past, never even looking at her. Mary breathed a sigh of relief.

When a hand firmly grasped Mary’s shoulder she turned, too startled to speak.

“Are you Mary Bloomfeld?” said the man who had just passed her.

Mary could only nod.

The man’s hand came out of his pocket and Mary saw a flash of steel. Her grip tightened on the keys but she never had the chance to use them. His arm pumped swiftly and deliberately forward three times. Mary’s eyes flashed with pain and shock and then began to fade. The man deftly removed her purse from her shoulder and as Mary slowly slumped to the ground, he was already walking away.

Chapter 1: A Walk in the Park

Despite the mayor’s PR campaign to the contrary, Central Park stubbornly remained an undesirable and dangerous place in many people’s minds, especially at night. Even after millions of dollars were spent in renovation and development, under the cover of darkness the park remained a playground for dealers, indigents, muggers and deviants.

A warm spring day made it easy to forget those undesirables and see the park as the open air oasis it was intended to be, a venue for music concerts and romantic carriage rides. In the safety of sunlight the air was filled with music and the laughter of children playing. There were waterfalls and ponds surrounded by flower beds and arching trees that provided a home for colorful species of eastern song birds who sang their appreciation.

That morning several people walked right by Mary’s dead body without so much as a glance downward, in the deadpan, stoic manner New Yorkers use to cope with the in-your-face lifestyle mandated by Manhattan’s millions crammed on a postage stamp. Nevertheless, only a few minutes had passed before someone discovered Mary’s lifeless body lying next to the path and called the police.

When the first policeman, a mounted officer on a chestnut mare, arrived at the scene the anonymous caller was nowhere to be found, also typical of the strict non-involvement policy many New Yorkers maintain. The policeman shook his head. So much for witnesses. Mary’s crumpled body lay next to the asphalt walking path in a pool of blood that stained the neatly cropped grass. A violent death like this one in broad daylight quickly shattered all PR illusions.

By the time the ten-foot cop had dismounted his steed, a squad car approached from the narrow access road. The policeman tethered his horse to a bench and radioed in for homicide. He motioned for the gathering crowd to stay back. A pair of officers from the squad car approached carrying markers and tape to rope off the crime scene. Once a plastic sheet covered Mary’s body the looky-loos began to lose interest, and the officers waited for homicide detectives to arrive.

Fifteen minutes later, a forty-something detective with wavy, salt-and-pepper hair approached from between two more squad cars now on the scene. “What are we looking at?” he said, flashing his badge to the young officer guarding the body.

“A woman, maybe twenty-five, with what looks like multiple wounds—there sure is a lot of blood.” It was always startling the first time a young policeman saw how much blood could come out of a human body.

The detective lifted the tape and stepped under. “You first on the scene?”

“No, sir. It was the mounted policeman.” He pointed to the officer standing by his horse. The detective waved him over.

“Did either of you touch or move the body?”

“No, sir,” the officers said in unison.

“Good. Let’s keep it that way until the techs have a look, okay?”

Both young officers nodded.

A neatly dressed young woman joined the detective near the body. “The mounted cop was first responder,” she said. “There was a 911 call, but whoever made it didn’t stick around. Dispatch is tracing the call. No witnesses so far and the uniforms are searching the area.” She surveyed the surrounding area of the park. “Kind of a bold move killing someone out here in the open.”

“Or stupid. Probably a junkie too desperate to care. I don’t see her purse.”

“In that case, the odds would be pretty good that someone saw it happen. But no one has come forward.”

“That doesn’t mean no one saw it,” said the detective. “It just means no one who cares saw it.”

“You’re way too cynical, Mac.” Mac was Gerald McBain, the veteran homicide detective Lacey Armstrong had drawn as her training partner. He was ornery and unforgiving, but he was one of New York’s best, and she was beginning to see through his tough-guy facade.

“And you are way too nice for a cop, way too headstrong for a rookie detective and a royal pain in the ass, Lacey. But, I don’t hold any of that against you. Besides, you got a better theory?”

“No theory. I’m just playing the odds right now.”

“Okay, let’s bet on it. I say low-life junkie. Loser buys lunch.”

“You know it’s against regulations to gamble on case outcomes.”

“It’s against regs to spit on the sidewalk, too, but that’s never stopped me.” Mac cleared his throat and spit to make his point. “Here comes the bag and tag crew,” he said, tired of debating with his eager young partner. It didn’t help that she was smart as a whip. Although they had only been partnered for a month, Mac already knew she would make a good detective, probably better than him.

A small man with horn rimmed glasses and little hair approached, followed by three young CSI techs. “I see you brought your whole band,” said Mac. “What’s the occasion, Jimmy? Big concert in the park?” The medical examiner’s name was James Page and Mac liked to tease him about being a rock star from the seventies band Led Zeppelin.

“You know, Detective, that wasn’t funny the first time you said it, and it isn’t funny now. Besides, those guys must be a hundred years old by now—or dead.” The ME frowned at the pavement and shook his head. “I assume that oyster is yours. I’ve warned you about contaminating my crime scene. I should write you up.”

Mac shrugged.

“As for my crew, the mayor’s office has already gotten wind of this incident and wants it to go away fast. Apparently, dead girls are not a good promotion for the mayor’s ‘Summer in the Park’ program. I have orders to clear the crime scene in thirty minutes or less.” The ME glanced around the area, relieved to see no media trucks had yet arrived.

“I don’t see a problem with that,” said Mac. “Looks like a mugging gone bad. I’ve got the uni’s searching trash cans for the vic’s purse and the murder weapon.”

The medical examiner waited to begin his preliminary examination of the body until an assistant had taken multiple photos of the crime scene. Another assistant was bagging the victim’s hands to preserve trace evidence. “I found this in the victim’s right hand,” he said, holding up a beautiful silver Star of David key chain. “There’s blood on it. She must have been using it to defend herself.”

The medical examiner shook his head. “How many times have I told you that your job is to gather evidence, not speculate on what it means? Bag it and tag it. We’ll determine the facts after we test it in the lab.”

“Yes, sir.” Meanwhile, a third assistant took numerous samples of blood from the scene on the off chance the mugger was injured in the struggle. He offered no theories.

They were all done in under ten minutes.

Mac watched as the medical examiner methodically looked over the body. “Well, Jimmy?” said Mac, as the techs zipped the body into a bag for transport to the morgue.

“The victim is twenty-five to thirty years old. Three deep knife wounds to the chest and abdomen,” said Jimmy. “Massive hemorrhaging. Looks like all three hit arteries. She bled out quickly. I’d say she was unconscious in less than a minute and dead in two. She went fast.”

“Lucky her. She might have preferred a nice, slow death—like old age. Any ID on her?”

“Nothing yet. She’s only been dead about an hour.”

“Can you tell me what kind of knife we’re looking for?”

“A long, narrow, double-edged blade. I’ll get you the exact specifications back at the ranch.” While he protested Mac’s jokes about him being a seventies rock star, James Page did have a not-so-secret fantasy of his own. Despite his short stature and glasses, he thought of himself as a cowboy, which is why he wore gaudy hand-tooled leather boots. The ME made a motion like he was spinning a lasso over his head and his three assistants rushed immediately to his side. “Nice work, boys. We’re done here. Let’s ride.”

Meanwhile, Lacey was talking to the uniforms who had been canvassing the area. They found no purse, knife or witnesses.

“Anything?” said Mac.

“Nada,” said Lacey.

“Told you. Mugging. Plain and simple. Let’s wrap it up. The mayor wants this one under the rug.”

“Under the rug?”

“No press, no photo ops. Some cases are high profile and help the mayor make political hay. A young white woman murdered in Central Park in broad daylight is PR poison, so he wants it handled quietly.”

“But—”

“Yeah, yeah, regulations. Welcome to the real world.”

Chapter 2: Death Rites

The police were quick to identify Mary’s body. She had been printed and photographed in a routine security clearance for her job at the diamond exchange. Mary Bloomfeld lived alone in Manhattan. Mac called her parents in Brooklyn to come into the morgue and confirm her identity. He hated making those calls, but it came with the job. It was a forgone conclusion that it was Mary, and although he had told her parents in no uncertain terms that it was definitely their daughter, he knew they would deny it right up to the moment they saw her ashen face on the slab. It was only human nature when faced with something as evil as losing a daughter.

Whenever the ME did finally pull back the sheet, one of two things would happen. There would be an explosion of grief and pain that always managed to pierce Mac’s emotional armor. Or worse, there would be a silent but palpable implosion that tightened Mac’s chest as he watched the blackness close in around the stricken survivors.

Either way, Mac would then have to question the parents about their daughter for his investigation. That was inevitably pouring salt on the wound, and he had been cursed, spit at or slapped on more than one occasion.

While he waited for the parents, Mac found out what he could from the examination. “Talk to me, Jimmy.”

“Wish I had something to say. There isn’t much evidence. The killer stabbed her three times in the torso with a diamond-shaped blade seven inches long by seven-eighths of an inch wide at the hilt. All three blows hit arteries. There were no hesitation marks.”

“That’s an unusual shape for a knife. Almost a stiletto.”

“Very much so. I can’t be sure what the hilt looks like, but the knife is probably something like this.” Jimmy pulled out a sketch he had made.

“Military issue?”

“It does match up with several military knives, including this British-made, Fairbairn-Sykes commando knife used in close quarter combat.” He pulled up a website database of knives on his computer screen. “Unfortunately, the knife has been in use since World War II. It was standard issue in Britain for soldiers and intelligence agents. It was also copied by other countries, and many versions would fit the wound. And, as you can see, cheaper copies are still being sold over the internet as well. There will be no tracing the knife. I’m afraid you are going to have to find the exact murder weapon.”

Mac looked at the picture. “Nasty looking thing.”

“The F-S commando knife was made specifically to penetrate heavy clothes and a ribcage. That blade could even go through a combat helmet.”

“Maybe it was some crackhead ex-military dude whose DNA is on file. Any chance we found the killer’s blood?”

“No such luck. All the blood samples belong to the victim. There were no defensive wounds, although she did have these gripped in her hand so tight she cut her own palm.” Jimmy held up a set of keys. Mac thought of a modified version of the old saying that you don’t bring a knife to a gunfight. “There are no signs of a struggle. I don’t think she had time to defend herself. It must have all happened fast. I found minor thread and hair traces on her clothing, but nothing out of the ordinary.”

“Great,” said Mac. “Another unsolved murder.” What most people didn’t realize is that nearly fifty percent of the homicides in major cities go unsolved. Knowing that never made Mac feel any better.

Having decided it was time to expose Lacey to the tragic side of being a homicide detective, Mac insisted she be at the morgue when the parents arrived. Mr. and Mrs. Bloomfeld walked in accompanied by two other men.

“It’s obvious which ones are the parents, but who are the other two?” said Lacey.

“One is a rabbi from their synagogue; the other man is a shomer. He’s here to watch over the body and see that it is protected and properly handled according to Jewish tradition.” Mac didn’t sound happy.

“Is that a problem?” said Lacey, looking confused.

“It can be, but probably not in this case. Just watch and learn.” Mac walked toward the group and stopped in front of the man and woman who were clinging to each other.

“Mr. and Mrs. Bloomfeld, thank you for coming. I’m so sorry for your loss.” Having said those words so often as a homicide detective made them feel robotic and hollow to Mac, but both of the Bloomfelds thanked him nonetheless. Mac wanted to get the official condolences out of the way now before the parents were forced to confront the death of their daughter. There’s just no denying a cold dead body. Once in the terrible throes of grief Joel and Emma Bloomfeld would gain nothing from anything Mac might say, if they even heard it.

Mac turned and looked at the rabbi, a serious looking man of about forty dressed casually in slacks and jacket with no tie. Mac remembered that rabbis saw no need to wear any special uniform out in public, unlike the priests of his own Catholic faith. “Rabbi,” he said, nodding in a feigned attempt to show a deference he did not particularly feel. Not that he was anti-religion. Mac was a pragmatist, and while he had no personal objection to anyone’s religious observances, he held to the policeman’s two-valued logic. Anything that got in the way of doing his job was bad, and nothing else mattered. Simple as that.

There were specific Jewish religious rites governing handling the body of a deceased person that sometimes cut across standard police procedure. For the strictest sects, no autopsy and same day burial with all body parts including spilled blood was preferred. The shomer would watch over the deceased until the body was in the ground. While the rabbi would be accommodating up to a point, Mac knew there would be political pressure coming down the command channels to force things along faster than he wanted. Even if the police caught someone stupid enough to be using the victim’s credit cards, the perp would surely claim he found them, which was a likely enough possibility. Short of a miracle, Mac had already resigned this case to the growing pile of unsolved homicides.

“Your condolences are appreciated,” said the rabbi. “I am Rabbi David Levine from the Union Temple of Brooklyn. Mr. and Mrs. Bloomfeld are here to see their daughter.” He pointed to the fourth person, a younger man. “Jacob is here to act as shomer. You are familiar with the custom?”

“Yes I am, Rabbi.” In fact, Mac had butted heads with another rabbi during the investigation of a serial killer ten years earlier. Back then, one of the victims was a young Jewish woman. Having just made detective, Mac was young, brash and full of self-importance. The chief of D’s had come down hard on him after he basically threw the rabbi out of the station. The Jewish community had strong political influence in the city. Now, although Mac didn’t always like it, he understood the ramifications of PR and politics and the necessity of maintaining a working relationship with the community.

Mac led the group to a large window outside the examination room where Mary’s body now lay. He looked at the father, who nodded. Mac pressed the intercom. “We’re ready.” At Mac’s signal the ME opened the window curtain and pulled back the sheet.

Emma Bloomfeld sobbed erratically and turned away, while her husband Joel stared silently through the window at the lifeless face of his daughter.

Baruch dayan emet,” said the rabbi. It meant, Blessed be the one true Judge. In the face of death, it was all one could say. After instructing Jacob to stay and watch over the body, the rabbi helped the grieving parents into another room where they could sit down. “You must comfort your wife, Joel,” he said to the girl’s father. Joel Bloomfeld snapped himself out of the daze he was in and nodded, putting his arm around his wife. They huddled together in their grief. The rabbi walked out to talk to the detective.

“I assume you must interview the parents. I also assume they are not suspects in this horrific crime.” The rabbi firmly held Mac’s gaze, waiting for a response.

“No, they are not suspects,” Mac said reluctantly. Although he had already eliminated the parents, he hated the feeling of losing control of a case. “However, they may have information that will assist with our investigation.”

“Of course, of course. I—we would like to see the monster who did this brought to justice. That is the only relief Mary’s parents have available in this world. Please remember that they are in Aninut, the first period of mourning for the immediate family of a deceased person. During this time the family should be left alone and allowed the full expression of grief. Condolence calls or visits are not even made until after the funeral. You understand?”

“Of course, Rabbi. And you understand I have the job of catching whoever did this.” Mac was determined not to be pushed around.

The rabbi studied Mac closely. “I would like to sit in on the interview, if that is all right with you.”

Mac sighed. “Sure, Rabbi, as long as you don’t interrupt.”

“You have my word.”

Mac interviewed the parents more briefly than he would have preferred, learning little toward solving the crime. After the parents left, the rabbi had more questions.

“Do you have any idea who did this?”

Mac gave the pat no-answer. “We are following all possible leads. It is still early in the investigation.”

“Yes, but do you have a suspect?”

“Not at this time.” Now Mac was being interrogated.

“You will keep me appraised of any developments?”

“Certainly, Rabbi.”

“When can you release the body?”

“The cause of death is obvious. So once any evidence we need is collected, we will release the body as complete and intact as possible. Should be tomorrow by noon.”

The rabbi nodded his approval. “Thank you, Detective. I’ll call you at eleven.” He turned and left.

Lacey had remained silent the entire time. The raw grief of the victim’s parents had been a gut punch for her. She noted how detached and unaffected by the tragedy Mac appeared to remain. As a police officer Lacey was impressed. Mac was certainly efficient in handling the next of kin, and the emotional detachment that came so easily to him was by the book. However, as a human being she was saddened.

Mac’s emotional distance came with a price. The civilian world outside the police precinct was no longer part of the protect and serve “us” proposition. For Mac it was us versus them, and the only ones that mattered were perps, vics or witnesses. Although Lacey admired the steely edge that made Mac great at his job, she wasn’t sure she could, or even wanted to, be that hard.

Chapter 3: Shiva

Good to his word, Mac had arranged for Mary Bloomfeld’s body to be released the following day. Both the medical examiner and Lacey had protested, but Mac knew a dead-end case when he saw one. Mary’s father and the shomer rode in the black hearse that carried her body to the funeral home where preparations for burial would be made, while Mrs. Bloomfeld stayed behind to collect her daughter’s personal effects. When Mac handed her the Star of David key chain she had given to Mary as a present, the flood of tears came again. Mac said nothing.

The funeral was scheduled that afternoon. Mr. Bloomfeld had opted for a graveside service in the hopes that it would be faster and less painful for his wife, who was having a rough time dealing with the loss. Once Mary was buried, the seven day shiva mourning period would begin allowing friends to come to their home and comfort the family. Joel Bloomfeld needed all the help he could get.

With guidance from Rabbi Levine, Joel arranged for Mary’s body to be washed and properly clothed according to their religious tradition. The funeral ceremony took place at five o’clock in the Mount Lebanon Cemetery in Queens. It was a solemn graveside affair with only the immediate family plus Joel’s brother Avram and his wife attending. As the simple wooden coffin was lowered into the ground Mrs. Bloomfeld broke down again, every piteous wail raising hair on the back of Joel’s neck.

After the service, the family climbed into a limousine for the ride back to their home in Brooklyn. No one spoke. Waiting at the Bloomfeld’s home, other relatives and friends had prepared food for those in mourning. This was a time for the family to work through their grief. Known as sitting shiva, daily services were held and the family members reconfirmed their faith by saying Kaddish, a ritual prayer praising God.

When the family arrived home, they were greeted at the door by Mrs. Bloomfeld’s cousin Berra. “Come in, come in,” said the large woman. She helped the grieving parents through the door. When Berra tried to take the arm of Mary’s younger brother Jesse, he yanked it away and screwed his face into a snarl. Berra said nothing. Grief has many faces.

Once inside the house Joel Bloomfeld took a deep breath and relaxed for the first time since he had gotten the phone call that devastated his universe. Two of the Bloomfelds’ closest neighbors had prepared a meal for the family. Others would bring food throughout the week, allowing the family to focus on dealing with their loss. Realizing how hungry she was, Mrs. Bloomfeld nodded agreeably when she saw the food spread out on her dining room table. She couldn’t remember the last time she ate. She took her husband’s arm and walked to the table. After sitting down she saw Jesse standing near the door. Lost in the depth of her own grief she had forgotten how hard this must be on her son. “Jesse, come and eat,” she said.

Jesse didn’t move.

“Come on over here. Look what our friends have cooked for us.”

Jesse walked over slowly. “I’m not hungry,” he said through gritted teeth.

“You don’t have to eat, but you will sit down and share this meal with us,” said Joel. He spoke in a barely controlled tone that made it clear he was not asking. Jesse reluctantly sat down.

Joel said a prayer for the meal and then the family ate in silence. Despite his initial protests, within a minute Jesse dug into the food. A young man had to eat. Berra and two other women kept the food coming until the Bloomfelds had eaten their fill.

In accordance with the ritual of shiva, no one else originated speaking about the deceased without an invitation from her immediate family. Knowing this, and buoyed by a full belly, Joel decided it was time to break the ice. He told a touching story about Mary that was his favorite. Most of those present had heard it numerous times before. Regardless, they all listened intently.

“When Mary was just five years old she had gone out in the alley behind our house to play. She saw something moving on the ground near the wall of the building and walked closer to see what it was. A sparrow lay on the pavement, shivering and barely moving. Mary carefully picked up the tiny bird and placed it gently in her hand. Not knowing what to do to help the bird, she prayed. I was inside when I heard Mary crying in the alley. By the time I reached her she was wailing uncontrollably. She held up her hand. The sparrow lay dead. Mary looked at me. Why, Papa, why? she pleaded. I was about to launch into a complex explanation about life and death to my five-year-old girl when she continued. Why didn’t my prayer work? Didn’t God hear me?

“I smiled at Mary and gently took the bird from her hand. Of course God heard you, I said. Your prayer worked. God saw that sparrow and loved it so much that he wanted to have it in heaven with him.

“Mary wiped the tears from her cheeks and said, I guess that’s where he belongs, but I’ll miss him, Papa. I loved him, too.”

When Joel finished he looked about the room and said, “I know Mary will be missed. Don’t you agree?” It was the invitation the others had been waiting for. One by one each person present spoke of Mary and expressed his or her condolences to the family. Emma Bloomfeld cried quietly throughout most of the conversation.

Mary’s uncle Avram stood up to speak. He started by saying how diligent Mary was in carrying out her duties at the diamond exchange. When he tried to continue he choked on his words and began to heave and sob. Berra had to help him to a chair where he cried uncontrollably.

Joel decided it was time for Jesse to say Kaddish. Jesse refused, and when pressed by his father he said, “I can’t. Goy bastard.” Jesse was convinced that Mary’s murder had been a hate crime. He and his father had been fighting about it since the news of Mary’s death. When Joel tried to grab his arm, Jesse pulled away and stormed out of the house, slamming the door behind him.

No one inside spoke for the next few minutes. It was forbidden for the immediate family mourners to leave the home during the seven days of shiva. Mary’s mother kissed the Star of David key chain she clutched in her hand and cried.

Chapter 4: Gone but Not Forgotten

Mary’s murder had already slipped to the back pages in the New York papers, and the lieutenant of the detective squad in the Central Park Police Precinct had gotten word that the mayor wanted the book closed on the case with no fanfare, solved or not.

When the desk sergeant told Mac that the lieutenant wanted him in his office straightaway, Mac knew what was coming. He hated leaving open cases, but it came with the territory. It wasn’t like they had any leads that were going to crack the case. Senseless random violence was a bitch to solve. Better that they move on to a case they had a shot of closing. It was a far cry from justice for all, but it was reality in any big city.

All Mac’s usual justifications for closing the book were not working. He thought about his idealistic rookie partner and compulsively rubbed his temple. There was no chance that she would agree with him. Mac frowned, annoyed that he even cared what she thought. He was the lead detective. It was his call. He reached the lieutenant’s office and knocked twice on the door frame.

“Mac, come in and close the door.”

Mac cinched up his tie and sat down, never taking his eyes off the round-faced man sitting behind the desk. He was smiling slightly, but that could be good or bad.

“How is your rookie doing?” said Lieutenant Brady. “Is she going to be any kind of detective?”

“She’s got a good head for the job,” said Mac. “Maybe a little too headstrong, but I think once she learns the ropes she’ll settle in. Right now she’s a royal pain in my ass.”

The lieutenant smiled broadly. “Who does that sound like?”

“You better not say me, Steve, or I’ll cross you off my Christmas list.”

“Like you even have one.”

“Busted,” said Mac. He and the lieutenant knew each other since their academy days, although Steve was more of a political animal who had angled toward an administrative position right from the start.

“About the girl in the park. Mary Bloomfeld. Do you have anything solid?”

“Solid? So far I have nothing solid, liquid or gas. Looks like a mugging that went south. I am still waiting on the DNA results, but I’m not holding my breath. It’s a long shot.”

“Okay. I need you to wrap this one up fast.” Steve was no longer smiling.

“Dead or alive?” It was Mac’s way of asking whether or not the case had to be solved.

“Close the case or close the book. Either way, I need you to wrap it up and get on to other cases by tomorrow night. Any push from the family?”

“Not much so far, but they are still in mourning. I’m sure I can handle it.”

“Good enough, Mac.” The lieutenant stood up and Mac followed his lead. “I’m counting on you. So is the mayor.” There it was. Politics. The poison of public service. Mac nodded and left. When he got to his desk, Lacey was there poring over the notes on the Bloomfeld case.

“We need to wrap this one up,” said Mac.

“What? We don’t even have the lab results back,” said Lacey, digging in her heels just as Mac had predicted.

“I don’t expect much to come of that,” said Mac. “We have until tomorrow night, one way or the other.”

“That’s crazy,” said Lacey. “The lab work can’t possibly get done that fast.”

“We can argue or we can get to work,” said Mac. “Did you find anything in the notes that is going to help us?”

“You know as well as I do there is next to nothing useful in these notes—no motive, no suspects and no witnesses.”

“So, what do you suggest we do?” said Mac.

Lacey could see that Mac had already made up his mind and was ready to close the case. “We need to find a motive.”

“How about hopped-up junkie desperate for a fix? Works for me.”

“A junkie with a quality military blade and perfect aim.”

“Maybe he’s ex-military, homeless and on psychotropic meds. I’ve seen enough of them. Those guys are messed up enough to do anything.”

“We never found her purse or the knife. Even a whacked-out junkie is smart enough to dump the knife. Plus, there were no signs of struggle, no defensive wounds. The probability of it being a simple mugging is less than fifteen percent. I’m not buying it. Maybe there’s a boyfriend. We should interview the family and find out more about her personal life.”

“Not going to happen today.”

“Why not?”

Mac remembered the trouble he had on a case years ago. “After the funeral the immediate family mourns for seven days. They won’t leave their house and they won’t talk to us. It’s a religious thing.”

“How about her job? She did work for a diamond exchange.”

“That’ll work.” Mac tossed the car keys to Lacey. “You drive.”

Lacey pulled up in front of Goldfarb Diamonds on West 47th Street in the midtown Manhattan Diamond District. The place was dark and the security gate was locked. Lacey looked up the home address of the proprietor, Avram Bloomfeld. It was Mary’s uncle. They drove out to Borough Park in Brooklyn, an area that was already predominantly Jewish with more coming in from Eastern Europe all the time.

A knock at the door brought a small, overweight man in his mid-fifties who peered out cautiously through the curtain. “Who is it?”

“NYPD,” said Lacey, holding up her shield. “Are you Avram Bloomfeld?”

“Y-yes, what’s this about?”

“We’re investigating the death of Mary Bloomfeld.” The man’s face disappeared and Lacey heard the clack of two deadbolts. The door swung open.

“My niece, Mary. Such a horrible tragedy. Come in, come in. Anything I can do to help.”

Lacey and Mac walked in. Mac glanced idly around the room, showing no interest in the investigation. The place was decorated with old furniture. There was a family picture on the wall that included Mary and her parents. In the picture she looked to be about ten years old.

“Mary worked for you at the diamond exchange, correct?” said Lacey.

“Yes, she did bookkeeping, mostly inventory reports. There is a lot of paperwork in the diamond business.”

“Did you notice anything unusual in her behavior recently?”

“I did not. To be honest, she was very quiet and kept mostly to herself. She was very reliable. I can’t believe she’s gone.”

“Do you know if she had a boyfriend?”

“I don’t think so. I never saw her with anyone, but I guess it is possible.”

“Do you know of any reason why anyone would want to kill her?”

Oy gevalt, no. She was a sweet, decent girl.” Avram started to tear up.

Lacey handed him a card. “I’m very sorry for your loss. If you think of anything that might help us catch whoever did this, don’t hesitate to call.” She looked over at Mac who was now peering lazily out the front window, and then back to Avram. “Thank you for your time.”

Once they were outside, Lacey said, “Really?”

“What?” said Mac. “You asked all the right questions. It’s not my fault they didn’t turn up anything.”

“You know, you are my training officer. I look up to you. You’re not setting a very good example.”

“I disagree, young lady. I think I’m setting a perfect example. Cases are like horses. When they’re dead, they are dead. You bury them or they start to stink.”

“That’s a terrible metaphor.”

“And yet, you understood my point.”

The two rode back to the station in silence, Mac satisfied that he could close the case by the end of the day and Lacey too angry to talk. Once inside, Lacey called the medical examiner to find out if he had the test results back. Mac went to the break room for coffee.

When he returned he said, “I would have gotten you a cup, but as revved up as you are, I figured you don’t need it. Any luck on the DNA?”

“No results for another week, but thanks for asking.” Lacey was still mad. Mac sat down in front of her.

“Look, kid, I know you think every case is important, and we should solve them all. You’d be right. But, I know you won’t be able to. And I’d be right. You have to realize you are in this for the long haul. You like numbers. Sometimes you have to play the odds, pick the battles you can win.”

“It’s not fair.”

“Sometimes right and fair don’t see eye to eye.”

Chapter 5: Eye of the Tiger

After Jesse shocked everyone by leaving the Bloomfeld house of mourning, he hopped into the five-year-old, red Honda Accord his uncle had given him and sped off. Jesse’s mother had initially protested the birthday gift but his uncle had insisted, having no sons of his own. “Every young man in America must have a car,” he said. “How else can he properly date a girl?” His mother thought Avram watched too many American movies, but she finally relented.

True to his uncle’s purpose, Jesse now drove to Brighton Beach to look for Svetlana, the Russian girl he had met at one of the local hangouts. She was a sultry blond, and he had fallen hard for her. Finding out that she worked at one of the strip clubs that featured girls from Eastern Europe had not dampened his feelings. Knowing where he would find her he drove to the Tiger Club on Coney Island Avenue. After buying the required drink he sat and waited, staring woodenly at three successive girls who undulated on the brightly lit stage.

Finally the canned music rose to a crescendo, indicating the featured dancer’s entrance. First one leg poked coyly from behind the curtain, tapping lightly to the rhythm of the heavy beat. The men in the audience came to life, clapping and whistling with eager anticipation. Soon one lithe leg became two as a petite blond slithered out onto the stage waving the red sequined cloth that wrapped her arms and torso. She looked even younger than her twenty-one years, a plus for the unruly crowd. She stopped for a moment, and then winked deliberately at Jesse, bringing a smile to his face. Although he didn’t like what Svetlana did for a living, he had resigned himself to tolerating her circumstance until he could end it, something he was determined he would do.

When her act was finished Svetlana bent over and deftly scooped the sequined cloth from the floor, doing one last twerk to the delight of the frenzied audience before re-covering her now naked body and exiting behind the curtain.

A few minutes later Svetlana came out into the club and made her way to Jesse’s table, ignoring the men who spoke or pawed at her as she passed by. Jesse conspicuously waved a twenty-dollar bill in the air, making it acceptable to the club managers that she sit down at his table.

“Jesse,” she said, putting her hand gently on his, “I didn’t expect to see you tonight. Especially here. You know I would prefer you didn’t see me dance.”

“And you know I would prefer you didn’t dance at all.”

Svetlana blushed and looked at the floor. “Let’s not go there,” she said, squeezing his hand. She looked up and changed the subject. “I thought you would be at home with your family grieving for your sister.”

“I tried, Lana, but I can’t. I just can’t. We grieve, but no one else cares. Besides, it’s all my fault she is dead.”

“What? Now you’re talking crazy.”

“There are things you don’t know about me.”

“I know you would never hurt your sister.”

“Don’t be so sure.” Now it was Jesse’s turn to stare at the floor.

“You going to marry her?” asked a muscular, bald man wearing a too-tight T-shirt with tattoos spilling out on his arms and neck. Jesse didn’t answer. Svetlana winced when the man grabbed her arm firmly. Jesse rose from his chair. Svetlana glared at Jesse and shook her head. Knowing he had a plan to free her was barely enough to restrain Jesse as he watched the brute drag her away. Jesse sat down and ordered a drink and then another, tossing both down quickly. He went outside to wait until Svetlana finished her shift.

Jesse stood in the back alley behind the club when the black metal door finally opened. Svetlana stepped out wearing a conservative blue blouse and a pair of tight designer jeans. When she saw Jesse, she smiled. The sparkle and heavy makeup she wore onstage were gone. As Jesse watched her approach, he imagined that she was just a typical student at one of New York’s many universities. For now, that was an idle dream, but soon things were going to change. Soon.

Chapter 6: Father and Son

When Jesse returned to his house the next day, his father told him to go upstairs and wait in his room. The vein throbbing in Joel’s neck warned Emma that the confrontation might get ugly.

“Joel, he’s just a boy,” said Emma, hoping to mitigate the damage.

“He’s old enough to know that he can’t shame the family. He has no right. Not during shiva.”

When Emma touched Joel’s arm she felt the anger and frustration that pulsed just below the surface. “Please, Joel,” she said.

Joel paused and looked into his wife’s desperate eyes. He put his hand gently on hers and said, “Don’t worry, dear. I’m okay,” and headed up the stairs.

Despite Joel and Jesse being behind closed doors and one floor above them, no one could ignore the shouting. The women who were there to comfort the family tried vainly to make small talk. When there was a thud followed by the sound of something breaking, Emma stood up.

“Dear God,” she said, clutching Mary’s Star of David key chain to her breast. When she moved toward the bottom of the stairs Berra stepped in front of her.

“You must let Joel handle this,” said Berra, her large body enforcing her advice. “It is his place as head of the family.” Emma nodded despondently and plopped back down in a heap on the sofa.

Ten minutes later, Jesse came down the stairs followed by Joel. Both looked flushed but otherwise undamaged.

“Jesse, is there something you want to say?” said Joel.

“I’m so sorry, Mama. I’m sorry Mary is gone.” Tears streamed down Jesse’s face when he hugged his mother.

What Readers Are Saying

Must Read Great plot, fast moving! Couldn’t put it down!”

Fantastic Thriller If you want a page turning thriller, this is the book.”

Just that awesome of a read! I’m sooooooooo in LOVE with Raja and Vinny!! I love these guys with every new book that comes out in the Raja Williams series!! Each book is in a new place, with new characters to also fall in love with. Even though Mac is a jaded detective, I like him for his rough edges and I think it’s those rough edges that make his junior detective partner, Lacey, strive to be an awesome and thorough investigator.”

Raja does it again! Raja Williams never fails to get his target, and Diamonds Never Die delivers another great adventure for Raja and Vinny. This look into the Russian mob and the diamond market is chilling. Highly recommend this series by Jack Thompson.”

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