Now that I know what really happened to your uncle, I’m very sad for you, and hope you’re still okay somewhere. I’m sending this to your farm address that Phony Uncle Zeb gave me anyway, because for one thing I don’t know where else to send it, and for another if there’s any chance at all of you learning what just happened, I have to take that chance.
I’m actually writing on the train to Washington after our weekend in New York getting swept by the Yanks and dumped into sixth place, and the team wasn’t the only thing there that took a beating…
I spent the weekend staying at my parents’ house. I even had Harry over for Sabbath dinner and my mom’s excellent potato latkes. After dinner, though, Harry went back to our hotel and I went by myself to Battery Park to meet this impostor.
I sat on a bench tossing bread crumbs to pigeons for a while and scanned the crowd. There were many tourists getting off and on ferry rides out to the Statue of Liberty. No one was recognizing me in the park, not even the pigeons. It was a warm summer night, but a cool breeze came up eventually that I wasn’t really dressed for. I paced around to get warm as the last boat came in after sunset, and the park began to thin out.
I still had an hour and a half before I had to meet “Ruben Glass”, the fake cousin of your uncle, so found a dark, seedy bar nearby where no one would notice me and drank a few Ballantines.
By the time I got back to the park, the only people around were a young couple staring out at the water, a cop on his beat and a bum trying to sleep on the grass that the cop was occupied with. I walked over to the rail pretending to gaze out at Lady Liberty myself, and just waited. Glancing over to the right, I thought a figure in shadows with a lit cigarette, but wasn’t sure.
I looked back at the water. Footsteps came from the right. Steady ones, but not rushed.
“Ist that you, Greenberg?”
The voice was low, the accent definitely foreign. I turned and saw “Ruben.” Blonde hair under his white cap and a pencil-thin moustache. Half the size of me but with steely eyes that nearly shone in the dark.
He nodded, flicked his cigarette away.
“You have the money?”
“Sure. Let’s take a walk.”
I motioned to the cop on the other side of the park and we walked along the rail away from him, strolled behind an equipment shed. I nudged my new pal.
“You have the info I need?”
“Yeah. Like where Markie Edelstein is.”
“My cousin did not tell you?”
“Not exactly. Kind of tough for dead people to tell you anything.”
He stopped. His face tightened.
“What do you mean?”
I grabbed him by the throat with one hand and smashed him against the side of the shed.
“You know damn well what I mean. Zeb was killed by the Nazis a month ago. You’re pretending to be his cousin, and have Markie tied up somewhere, right?
“You are crazy. I am Ruben Glasstein!”
“Glasstein, huh? Nice try.” I slammed him to the ground, dropped a knee on his puny chest. “Tell me Markie’s alive, and he’s okay, or I’ll kick your face inside out.”
“Okay! Okay stop! I will tell you!” I eased up a tad to let him breathe normal.
“There are many like me, and we work together. Jews are being taken away, and there is good business in getting money for them from rich friends and relatives here. The man who sent me tonight must have this child you call Markie…He used the letters you mailed to do this—”
I hauled him back on his feet.
“Where’s Markie now?”
“I don’t know! I swear it! I am just supposed to take the money over!”
A police siren whipped around the nearby corner. I turned my head for one second and he slipped free. Swung wildly and socked me in the face. I stumbled back, stunned, and he ran off. Something had dropped out of his coat pocket.
The siren was a paddy wagon that the cop had called to shove the bum in. I reached down and grabbed what looked like an official envelope. Inside was a British ocean liner ticket and passport with “Ruben’s” picture on it. His real name was ROLF GRUND. I pocketed them, and intend to give them a lot of attention.
Meanwhile, I have quite a shiner under my eye now, and will make up a good story about it for everyone on the team but Harry—who naturally will know everything.