The Not Exactly Complete Works of Peter Schulman

Circumstantial Evidence

©2010 Peter Schulman


  Chapter 1  

  Chapter 2  

  Chapter 3  

  Chapter 4  

  Chapter 5  

  Chapter 6  

  Chapter 7  

  Chapter 8  

  Chapter 9  

  Chapter 10  

  Chapter 11  

  Chapter 12  

Chapter 20

Rachel didn’t live far from where Janet Reedy was murdered. I felt compelled to take another look at the scene. I knew in the back of my mind it would make me late for Jamie.

There were signs of recent, or even current, habitation by homeless people, but I saw nothing related to the murder as I strolled along the tracks and through the weeds.

This was a population without resources, which had to scramble to stay alive.

I turned to leave for a population with sufficient discretionary income to throw a party celebrating a religious observance. There is nothing wrong with that; that’s how it should be.

I had no solution, but it was disquieting to contrast them with the people for whom scant help could be found.

I called Lily on the way to Jamie’s.

“Phillip Patrick wasn’t the only one living in that area. We may be able to find someone who can tell us something, which is more than we know,” I said.

“I’ll get on it.”

“I probably don’t have to tell you, but these people are reluctant to talk with outsiders. They might tell you something if you give them money for booze. They would lie for it too. We may want to send someone in undercover.”

“It’s a thought. I understand the problem. Let me work on it.”

Jamie was at her door when I pulled up.

“Wow. You look so good.”

“How do I usually look?” Jamie asked icily.

“You always look great.” I instantly knew I could not escape if she was serious. “We better be going or we'll be late.”

“You make a comment like that and change the subject? Besides, we’re already late.”

“A comment like what? I said you look so good.”

“Implying it’s a surprise; that under normal circumstances I don’t look good.”

“That’s not what I said … what I meant.”

She looked furious. Her voice got louder and her breath grew deeper and shorter. Her nostrils flared. She seemed to be waiting for me to say something. There was no way I was going to say anything else she might misinterpret.

Suddenly, a smile crossed her face. She looked thoroughly satisfied with herself. “You’re so easy.” She strutted to the car. Jamie could be a real handful.

“That’s not nice,” I called after her.

I took my usual route toward home. On Fifty-Fourth Street I turned into Adath Israel, rather than my street.

We got to the sanctuary at nine fifty-three, barely in time for the portion of the service when the son of a cousin of my first wife would read from the Torah.

Barbara and I were divorced, but the family continued to invite me to their simchas. And, unlike when I was married to Barbara, I was allowed to bring a date.

My mind wandered from what was being said during much of the service.

As we praised Him - religions generally don’t think of God as Her - for something or other, I thought about how amazingly the planet had managed to overcome its hardships. From droughts to an Ice Age, through the extinction of most of the species that have ever lived, and the development of new ones, it survived.

It recovered from bombardments from space. It has even held its own against the dogged refusal of mankind to recognize there might be a better long-term plan than to squeeze out every dollar, lira, peso, pound, and drachma from ever-diminishing resources.

I thought about how good Jamie looked and how much happier I was having her with me than coming by myself.

My day got even better. My daughter Casey came over, sat down next to me and leaned in putting her head on my chest. I put my arm around her. Through my shirt I could feel her smile. She had no way to feel mine.

“Hi Daddy,” she said.

Casey always lit up a room when she entered. It wasn’t just me who recognized it. To other parents I was always, “Oh, you’re Casey’s Dad.” I made a lot of mistakes with Barbara, but Casey wasn’t one of them.

I didn’t see her all that much lately. She was a sophomore at Temple University, busy with school.

With about half an hour to go the Rabbi launched into his sermon. He was saying something about the walls. As infrequently as I go, I had heard this one before, more than once. Then, my mind was elsewhere except to occasionally notice he was still speaking. I just enjoyed sitting between Jamie and Casey. At noon the service concluded.

We wandered over to the family to offer our greetings and mazel tovs. I genuinely liked these people and it was nice to see them.

The party was held at Colleen’s in the Art Museum area just off the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Casey rode with us.

My favorite part is the hors d'oeuvres. It’s often a disappointment to leave the room for the meal.

This is also when most of the drinking occurs. That was a disagreement Barbara and I had over Casey’s bat mitzvah. I did not want to facilitate people drinking then getting in their cars to drive home. I lost that one.

Barbara’s sister wanted to know who my friend was. I told her we worked together.

Her aunt wanted to know who my friend was in the nicest way. I told her we worked together.

Her mother wanted to know who my friend was. I considered making a sign, but I just told her we worked together.

Jamie was amused. I reminded her that her family would do exactly the same thing. She agreed, but her family wasn’t here today.

The hour ended all too quickly and we moved on to lunch.

One of the main jobs of the DJ is to keep the kids entertained. Much of the music is for them. The games are for them.

Still, we had some opportunities to dance swing and even a few Fox Trots. I danced one with Casey.

When I did, several of the cousins moved in to talk with Jamie. I don’t know how they were able to. It got so loud I had to shout to be heard by the person next to me.

When the entrée was served, the DJ took a break and we could talk in normal voices.

“I could use some help with the Reedy investigation. Can you get some time off for a road trip?” I asked Jamie.

“I’m not supposed to help the other side,” she said.

“I’m just looking for the truth. You are an officer of the court, you know.”

“What would that involve?”

“You would have to be a hot woman I’m buying expensive jewelry for.”

“Ooo, that’s a role I’d like to learn to play,” she said. “How about Tuesday?”

“Tuesday is good.”

“You'll fill me in on the details?” she asked.

“Of course. I’ll need to wear something appropriate to my role.”

“We'll have to shop.” The phrase came naturally to her. She was pleased at the prospect. “You don’t own anything like that, and you haven’t a clue what to buy.”

“I know. Is tomorrow morning okay?”

“We have the Walnut Street Theater at two o'clock, remember?”

“I thought it was the Arden next Sunday.”

Jamie shook her head knowingly. “Sometimes I think you’re some kind of idiot savant. One minute you see things with an insight that transcends understanding. The next minute it’s like you don’t even know where you are; like you just popped in from another world.”

I shrugged. “I have a playoff double header at four tomorrow.”

“The show won’t be over by four o'clock.”

“I know,” I said. “I’ll be late for the game.”

The woman on the other side of Jamie was introducing herself. It would have been impolite to hog her to myself. I wandered off.

I visited with Barbara and her second husband briefly. I spoke with her father. I visited the bar mitzvah parents. All this visiting had gotten difficult because the DJ had started back up at a decibel level that would have drowned out airport traffic.

I headed back to my table, but was intercepted by a woman who identified herself as a single friend of Barbara’s husband. She was attractive, late thirties, around five foot five, brunette, nicely built, with shapely legs. I could tell that she had been drinking from the odor.

I learned that odor on one of my frequent trips to the morgue. The subject of the visit had found it impossible to negotiate the two steps down to his back yard and had split open his skull. The dull, sweet smell from the alcohol had filled the room. His body had not lived long enough to metabolize all he had consumed.

To this day, I believe I can detect the presence of alcohol on the breath better than a Breathalyzer. I just can’t determine the exact blood alcohol level.

The woman told me she had seen me dancing and would love to do a Fox Trot if I didn’t mind. I accepted.

I put my right arm high on her back, gave her my left hand to hold and positioned her about ten inches away from me. The next thing I knew, she had pulled me so close it felt like she was inside my shirt. Had she asked me to hold her closer, I would have used Groucho’s line from A Day at the Races, “If I held you any closer I would be on the other side of you.”

She must have consumed an awful lot. This position can be interesting in tango but is quite uncomfortable in Fox Trot.

Despite being impaired and in such close contact, she managed to rub her breasts against my chest as we danced. I suppose it showed some kind of talent, but I was not appreciative.

When we finished I told her I had to get back to my girlfriend. I knew there was a risk this would be reported, but I couldn’t think of any other way to pry her off me.

Jamie found it amusing. “Who was that you were wearing?”

“She just wanted to share her clothing with me.” This conversation was held in close proximity since the music was quite loud. Mercifully, dessert was imminent.

Several times I found myself returning to a conversation in which I was thought to be involved. I struggled to find the gist to give the impression I had been there the whole time.

At least nobody asked me a question. That was the worst - trying to answer a question when I had no idea what we were talking about, let alone what the question was. In those situations I would feign indecision, give the impression I was considering the weaker side of the argument in an attempt to be thorough. I had lots of practice. I always vowed to keep my focus on the conversations, but most of the time I didn’t remember until I realized I had forgotten.

Visiting had been nice, but I’d had enough. Right after dessert we said our goodbyes and thank yous to the key players and were ready to depart. I gave Casey a scrumptious hug. Then we left.

Fortunately, Jamie’s place was a short drive because she spent the whole time teasing me. What should she have said about our relationship when I hadn’t been clear on it myself? Where did I shop for that new suit of single woman?

Maybe we should have been married. She gave me as difficult a time as either of my wives.


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  Chapter 13  

  Chapter 14  

  Chapter 15  

  Chapter 16  

  Chapter 17  

  Chapter 18  

  Chapter 19  

  Chapter 20  

  Chapter 21  

  Chapter 22  

  Chapter 23