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Harley L. Sachs
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The tranquil life of the Rose Plaza retirement building is shattered when one of the residents turns out to be a crook under WITSEC, the witness protection program. He can’t keep his fingers out of the employee gift fund. The Mystery Club is enlisted to track down missing money, not knowing the danger they are in.
The face of the man behind the glass in the visitor’s booth was pale, haggard, and old. Gravity had caused his eyelids to droop and his cheeks to sag around his fleshy mouth. Age had made his eyes rheumy. One need not be an ophthalmologist to see that cataracts clouded his vision, or a doctor to suspect that he was ill. But neither gravity nor age had diminished his cruelty. Picking up the telephone, Patrick, "The Gimp" O’Donnel rasped to his visitor, "Where’s Marshall, my Jew mouthpiece?"
His visitor flinched. To put it in the parlance of the Brooklyn streets, he looked like ten Jews, an unfortunate model for stereotypes. Descended from Polish-Russian immigrants, this was a face that belonged in the long-obliterated inbred shtetls of Eastern Europe--pinched features, a thin nose, black curly hair. With little imagination one could visualize a scraggly beard, earlocks, and if not the wide-brimmed beaver hat of the ultra orthodox, at least a black leather cap like those worn by low ranked soldiers of the atheist Russian Mafia.
That was not the image Joel Melnik wanted to project. He was clean shaven, carefully dressed, an expensive shirt, gold cufflinks, a silk necktie. The only flaw in his appearance was the dandruff that showed around the collar of his jacket. Though his shoulders were narrow, an unfortunate genetic inheritance from ghetto ancestors, hidden under the expensive, conservative, three piece navy blue suit, the muscles of his arms and torso were lean and strong. Joel jogged early every morning and worked out several times a week at the health club
"Couldn’t make it, Mr. O’Donnel. Maybe you saw the papers. The Fulton Fish market thing."
"So who are you? His errand boy? Is this what I’ve come to? Is Marshall leaving me here to rot in the joint?"
"Marshall, er, Mr. Butwin, talked the prosecutors down to ten years. You could’a got the chair."
"Don’t tell me what I could’a got."
"You should be out in five, maybe three." He didn’t add, "with good behavior." Unless the parole board could be bought, O’Donnel didn’t look like a candidate for early parole.
"Christ, kid, I’m seventy-five years old. Ten years is a death sentence. I should be retired down in West Palm having coffee and a Danish by the pool with the boys. This joint is killing me."
Joel Melnik licked his lips nervously. "We may be able to get your conviction thrown out on a technicality. Then there’s your age and health to consider." It wasn’t unusual for the government to dump old prisoners whose health costs had become a burden on the taxpayers out on the street.
Patrick O’Donnel sighed. "That prosecutor is a vindictive bastard. An old man like me. They should have just let me alone, like Meyer Lansky. What harm could I do anybody? You think the State of New York is going to give me adequate medical care in this dump?" O’Donnel coughed and feigned a tear, the act that he had unsuccessfully performed under the skeptical scrutiny of the jury. "It’s a violation of my civil rights."
Joel Melnik knew that any alleged violation of the prisoner’s civil rights was nothing compared to the loss of lives of his seventeen known victims (never proved), not to mention a few others that were merely rumored. "Mr. Butwin is preparing your appeal. The witness was tainted, not credible. Marshall’s working on that."
"If he can find him."
Joel nodded. "If he can find him."
‘Him’ was Johnny Alto. With the Feds closing in he had made a deal: he’d turn state’s witness against O’Donnel in exchange for immunity from prosecution and protection from revenge. After the trial, he had disappeared.
Like Al Capone, it had been a tax evasion charge that finally nailed O’Donnel. After years of following the money, the government got a break in Johnny Alto. Alto’s specialty had been money laundering, so he had plenty of inside information on where O’Donnel’s money came from, how it got there, and where it went.
Though born in Chicago and raised in Indiana, Harley L. Sachs considers himself an international, having lived in Germany, Sweden, Scotland, and Denmark. He earned a degree in English at Indiana University, then served in the US Army in Germany. After getting his Master's degree at I.U. he returned to Europe and worked under cover for several years. He met and married Ulla Hintz in Stockholm, Sweden and they spent a year's honeymoon in a Scottish castle. Returning to the USA, Sachs taught English briefly at Southern Illinois University then moved to Michigan Technological University in the Upper Peninsula where he and his wife raised three daughters. He took early retirement and now divides the year between Michigan and Portland, Oregon.
“It’s got everything-- it’s visual, auditory, an adventure with some romance, a very relevant satire of our beaurocratic society and it has real philosophical and spiritual depth. Ideally, you could get some controversy going over the significance of it, particularly in relation to the positive relationship between Judaism and Christianity. I think it is brilliant. Wonderful, wonderful! And funny also.” -- Pam Erbisch.
WHAT READERS SAY ABOUT THE MYSTERY CLUB SOLVES A MURDER -- "Best yet.", V. Brown, Houghton, Michigan.
Book Publisher: Wings e Press
No. of Pages: 270
Paper Weight (lb): 11.4
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