Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 58 of a new online serial novel, Night Flower, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week. Click here for previous chapters.
Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications.
Forgive me for not calling to explain myself; I am afraid that your emissaries will once again find me and ruin everything. So I’m sending a fax. Don’t try to check the address from where this fax is being sent, because it is being sent to you from someplace very far from where I am right now.
I didn’t want to tell you this at first, because I was afraid of your response, but the notebook in which I wrote down all my operations…is lost. My problem was that when I planted the documents in Struk’s computer, I was afraid that his family would discover it too early and everything would be deleted. Therefore, I planned that the documents should remain concealed until the computer, or its contents, would be taken to Russia, and even then, they would only be unlocked after a certain code would be sent from a remote computer. It was very hard work, far beyond my programming abilities—and I have lots of abilities—and therefore, I sought assistance from the worldwide web. In order to make sure that there would be no fingerprints, I didn’t record anything in the computer. Anything I learned, I wrote in the notebook. Today, every beginner programmer knows that a pen or pencil and paper are the best protection against all kinds of hackers.
I had done everything. Now the hard disk in Russia was just waiting for me to send the signal from any computer that was connected to the internet. It made no difference to me what this hard disk would be contained in. I had built a smart program inside it that would go along with it wherever it went. The problem was that something serious happened: my notebook disappeared. Either that, or it was stolen. Bottom line, it’s in foreign hands. My secret code must have also fallen into those foreign hands. It’s a serious blunder on my part, I know, but did you want me to continue implementing the plan as though nothing had happened, when there is someone someplace that knows about all my activities and will know right away that the letters are forgeries, and that all the evidence against Struk probably also is?
At first I ran away. I didn’t know how to tell this to you. Then they began to chase me, and I thought it was only because we’d parted on bad terms; because I am angry at you and carrying a grudge. Indeed, I cooperated with this performance, and wasn’t able to make it clear to you that I’m in trouble.
Then I wanted to talk to you to explain myself, but I wasn’t able to anymore. Yadovsky kept getting involved, and you refused to hear what I wanted to say. I ran away, got into trouble, and you got to me—and again I was able to escape. I didn’t want them to force me to do something when I’m the only one who knows what the significance of doing such a thing is.
I would want you to respond, but I have no way to suggest how. I don’t have my computer or my phone, and I’m afraid to give you a number or an address that will disclose my location. I’m sorry.
I’ll think about a way, and when I come up with something, I will contact you again. But in the meantime, all I wanted is that you should finally listen to me.
Hoping that you made the effort to read this,
The realization that Anna was currently working with Chaiky at the community center shocked Chaiky’s mother to the core. As it was, she had been very confused about Anna’s visit, and overcome with memories. To suddenly hear that Chaiky actually knew her for half a year already, but didn’t know who she was, and that Anna had some mysterious connection to the story with Shlomo in Russia—was just too much.
“You’re taking this very hard,” Binyamin remarked the next morning, when he returned from davening and heard about his wife’s sleepless night. “What has actually happened? Anna came incidentally to work with Chaiky in Yokne’am, and when she realized after a few months who Chaiky is, she remembered those good years that she had here, and so she came to apologize.”
“No, it’s the other way around,” Mira said. “When she was here, she didn’t know that Chaiky is Chaya’le, I think. She asked me all kinds of questions about her.”
“Maybe she suspected it was her and just wanted to verify it,” Binyamin pointed out reasonably. “But what difference does all this make?”
“It really doesn’t make a difference to me. What’s bothering me right now is the issue with Shlomo. Anna has been hanging out at the community center for half a year, not exactly getting along with Chaiky, doing all kinds of things—taking her computer, giving back the computer, and then providing some garbled information about letters planted in the computer… If you ask me, it sounds like she did all this very much on purpose. I’m thinking to tell Chaiky not to listen to her. Who knows if this isn’t a trap of some sort being planted for Shlomo, this whole made-up story about secret codes that her friend has?”
“Friend? Which friend?”
“Chaiky doesn’t even remember the name of the friend, she was so confused. But she’ll remember, and I’m going to call her and tell her not to do anything just yet. She certainly should not look for any friend of Anna’s or any code before we discuss all this with Shlomo’s family and his lawyers.”
Binyamin was quiet as Mira made the call. But Chaiky’s cell phone was busy.
Rachel answered her on the home phone. “Oh, hi, good morning,” she said warmly. “Naomi, take three cookies from the box and run along, because in two more minutes you’ll be late. Dovi left already! Yes, Mrs. Brodsky. What? She’s on the phone with Elka, her boss. I’ll tell her to call you when she finishes.”
But when Chaiky finished speaking to Elka, she didn’t call her mother. She didn’t even hear what Rachel was trying to tell her. Instead she called Adi Milner, whose number she got from Elka. Maybe this anonymous Adi who was in possession of Noa’s mysterious purple notebook would be able to shed some light on this very puzzling turn of events.
But Adi—aside from being overwhelmingly happy to hear that Noa was safe and sound—couldn’t help much. She really didn’t know any more than Chaiky did.
“Why don’t you come here,” she requested, perhaps wanting to see exactly who she was talking to, “and I’ll give you everything Noa mentioned, including the code. Though what all this is supposed to mean, I really don’t know. It’s too bad she’s not contacting me herself.”
“Where should I come to?” Chaiky asked. “Where exactly do you live?”
“I live in Tel Aviv, but I’m in Bnei Brak at the moment. I’ll probably be there over Shabbos, too… Um…do you want to come by sometime on Motza’ei Shabbos?”
“I might be able to. We are going to be in Be’er Sheva for Shabbos. Maybe on the way back, I’ll pass by you. I need to see if it can work out.” Out of the corner of her eye, Chaiky saw Rachel taking out Naomi’s Shabbos dress from the closet and opening up the ironing board.
“I can continue back here with the children on Motza’ei Shabbos, if you want to go somewhere else on the way home,” she said casually. “You can make arrangements with whoever you need to. It sounds important.”
Chaiky looked at her gratefully, and fleetingly thought about the consultation she had scheduled with the social worker. Rachel had a family. Not a whole one; a hardly functional one, but nonetheless a family. The significant question was if this information would be beneficial for Rachel, or if it would have the opposite effect.
“Yes, I think that I really will come to you on Motza’ei Shabbos,” she said into the phone, and wrote down the details of the family where Adi would be staying for Shabbos.
Just as she hung up her cell phone, the house phone started to ring.
“It must be your mother,” Rachel said. “It sounded like she wants to tell you something urgent. I told her you’ll call her when you finish with Elka.”
But it wasn’t Mira Brodsky.
When Chaiky answered the phone, she heard the caller clearing her throat on the other end, and then it was quiet.
“Hello?” Chaiky tried again.
“Good morning. It’s me.”
“Oh,” Chaiky said, and rummaged around for the paper she had set aside. She hadn’t slept half the night. She’d sat at the table in the darkened, clean kitchen and had written down all kinds of questions she wanted answered. She wasn’t going to read out her list of questions to Noa one after the other, but she did have a few important points to clarify. Noa had been leading them all on for far too much time—she, Elka, and her mother. Enough was enough. Jewish? Not Jewish? Connected to the trial in Russia? Connected to the Community and Culture Foundation? Or just an innocent visitor to the library who had been working on a report?
Something niggled in Chaiky’s brain.
“Your report,” she said. “Your report in Jewish philosophy.”
“Yes?” Noa asked. “What about it?”
“When you came to my house yesterday, you said something to Rachel about this report. That I need to look for it, or something like that.”
“Right,” Noa said. “I didn’t know if I would get to actually meet you, and I wanted to leave a hint.”
“What kind of hint?”
“I wrote my report in a purple notebook, the same kind as the one you need to get from Adi Milner. I wanted you to know what to look for.”
“Oh,” Chaiky said as she walked into the kitchen. “I don’t think there’s the slightest chance that I would have understood that hint, but fine. By the way, I spoke with Adi. She’s happy to hear that you’re okay, because she was very worried about you.”
“Good,” Noa said in her hotel room in Jerusalem. “I couldn’t call her, because her cell phone number was only in my old cell phone, which I had thrown out. And I didn’t want to call her house, because I was afraid the lines were tapped there.”
Chaiky took two onions out of the bin for her cucumber salad and stood near the counter.
“I promised you we’d talk, so I called. But what is it that you want to hear from me?”
“The whole truth,” Chaiky said quietly. “If you have any courage, Noa, then I want to hear the whole truth. And that includes, most importantly,” she took a deep breath, “three main questions: why did you come to the community center; what do you have to do with my husband’s trial; and does all this have to do with the years that you spent in my parents’ house in Be’er Sheva?”
“In other words, you basically want to hear my entire life story,” Noa replied. “But okay. In order for you to believe me, and as a parting gift, I’m ready to—”
“It actually all boils down to one question.” Chaiky wasn’t even listening to Noa. She was standing frozen in front of the countertop. “Do you really want what is best for me, Noa Rose—Anna Rosenberg?” And only as she uttered the final word did the penny suddenly drop.
“You’re Rosenberg!” The knife clattered loudly onto the counter. “You’re connected to all those people who’ve gotten my husband into trouble!”
“Maybe I’m related to them,” Noa said placidly, “but if there’s one person in the world who I remained truly connected to, it’s not them.”
Chaiky was quiet.
“Check the code that Adi will give you, and you’ll see.”