Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 65 of a new online serial novel, The Black Sheep, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week. Click here for previous chapters.
Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications.
When the phone call came, Osher was in the yard, walking from one side of the fence to the other, just trying to dodge everyone’s gazes. He could not bring himself to take part in saying Tehillim inside with the others. Doron Nachman, who was sitting at the table, picked up. “Hello?” he said, his voice laced with a combination of hope and anxiety.
“Hello, this is Officer Peduel from the Acco Police Department.”
“Yes, what’s going on?” Doron Nachman took a deep breath.
“The search is continuing, and we hope that we have an important lead. I wanted to ask, what is with Rabbi Reiness’s sons?”
“What?” Doron was confused for a moment. “They are upstairs, in the house, with their mother.”
“Oh, they’re there? Because we want them to come to the police station. All of his sons are in the house?”
“The two who came in to Acco.” Doron’s forehead wrinkled with worry. “Why? Is there bad news?”
“There’s nothing newer than what I just told you,” Peduel said. Something in his tone was grating. “We need them for the search procedures, for testimony about their father.”
“Testimony?” The security guard stood up. “What is going on? Is he being accused of something?”
“No, he’s not being accused or anything like that. We need character witnesses, to try to understand the reason for his disappearance. The police are examining every possibility.”
“Fine,” Doron said, after a moment of silence. “I’ll tell them to come to the station.”
“Good. And tell them to hurry, because it’s important,” the officer said.
Reb Elazar’s sons went to the police station with their mother, and Mattisyahu Kreisman went back to his house, though not before asking me to update him about any developments. The rest of the boys continued saying Tehillim in the shiur room, and only I stayed outside, pacing up and down, while saying Tehillim softly by myself.
A few minutes later, Doron came out and called to me. “Is everything alright, Osher?”
I forced myself to turn in his direction. “I hope so,” I said.
“Good! I’m continuing my patrol around the yard. It’s nice to have someone else here. You’re keeping an eye on things, right?” Doron smiled at me, and it looked genuine. It didn’t seem like he was blaming me for the Rav’s disappearance. The truth was, aside for the initial unpleasantness when I’d first come back to the yeshivah today, no one had said another word to me about it. It was as if the Rav had called all the boys and asked them to treat me nicely, which I knew he had done a few times in the past months.
He went around the back of the house. I knew that the Rav paid serious attention to the back part of the house, especially the area of the shiur room; that was where the story with the fire had happened. I didn’t know why this was all important anymore if the Rav had disappeared, but if Doron Nachman was still patrolling and checking around, then I guess it was still important.
I continued to pace around the front yard. Suddenly I noticed that someone was ringing the bell at the gate. I went to the entrance and saw that the gate was open a few inches. The Rav’s sons must not have clicked it closed when they’d left for the police station. They probably didn’t know how strict we were about making sure the gate was always locked. Or had they also assumed, like I had, that if their father had disappeared, then anything related to their grandfather’s will didn’t mean anything anymore?
A man with a short gray beard and a white baseball cap stuck his foot inside.
“Here you go!” he said. “Courier mail. There’s an envelope for Reiness here. Can you call him, please?”
“Which Reiness?” I asked.
He looked at the large manila envelope he held. I immediately realized that it must be related to the Rav’s scheduled meeting. “Elazar Reiness,” he said.
“He’s not here.”
“So another Reiness.” He scratched his shoulder with his pen. “A son, or something; anyone like that here?”
“No,” I said. “Do you want me to tell them something?”
“What do you mean they are not here?” He seemed annoyed. “We called to inform them that they would be getting a delivery by courier, and they said they’d be here. Why are they driving us nuts?”
“Well, people aren’t always home when they think they’ll be,” I said. He looked like an Arab to me, but I wasn’t sure. In any case, I didn’t want to give him any information about the crisis.
“Yes, yes…people’s excuses… So, can you get Reiness on the phone? Ask him to come quickly? It’s urgent. And I need his signature that he got this envelope.”
“I can’t. He’s not here.”
“Well, then that’s his problem. I’m going.” He snorted. “My manager will be annoyed…oh, boy, will he be annoyed. Wait, you know what? Maybe you can sign for me that there is no one here named Reiness. Okay? What’s your name?”
“Osher Erenbaum. But I can’t accept anything for him.” For some reason I was thinking along the lines of explosive envelopes that would blow up in the back room, or something like that.
“No, I’m not leaving anything; this envelope is only for Reiness. But you can fill out the details here, for him, and I’ll come back in the evening.”
“You should probably call first.”
“This morning we did call!” he replied angrily. “And Rabbi Reiness himself answered, at seven in the morning! He said he was waiting very anxiously for this envelope! What kind of people are you, anyway?!”
He handed me a yellow printed form. “And when your rabbi comes back, let him call F.G.D. Real Estate, okay? As fast as he can. Now please sign.”
I looked at the page.
I hereby affirm that in the absence of __________________ or his descendants, at this address ________________________, it was not possible to meet with him.
Date and time: ___________________
I looked at him. “I don’t know what this is. This is what people sign when someone isn’t home?”
“With our company, yes, when it comes to important things like this.”
I filled out the details and signed my name. Then he left, taking back with him both the paper and the brown envelope.
“Osher?” Doron asked, appearing suddenly at my side. “What’s this? Who were you talking to over there?”
“He’s gone already,” I told him. “A courier who had to give something to the Rav.”
As I thought, Doron Nachman did not look pleased. “A courier? Did he give you something?”
“Nothing. He just got angry that the Rav wasn’t here, even though they’d made up with him that he would wait for the delivery.”
“Who is ‘they’?” Doron asked.
“I don’t know, some real estate company, with English letters.”
The boys prepared something for a late lunch and called me to come and eat as well. I went in for a few minutes, but I didn’t have much of an appetite.
A few minutes later, once I’d returned to the yard again, the Rav’s two sons came back with Mrs. Reiness.
“Nothing!” Nechemia exclaimed to Doron, who hurried toward them. “They brought us down there for nothing. Do you have the number of the detective who was here? Call him to ask what’s going on. The right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing!”
“The police didn’t even know why we came; they said that there is no officer named Peduel at their station,” the older son said. “Are you sure he told you that we should come to the Acco Police station?”
Doron was totally confused, as they were. He called the number that the detective who had been there had left, and was even more confused when the detective said he didn’t know who the person was either.
“Peduel? Who is that?” he asked. “I told you that I’d make contact with you. Who is this Peduel person?”
“It must have just been a prank,” Nechemia said, looking very tired.
“Or it’s not random, and someone was trying to take us away from here,” the older son said.
“Why would someone do that?” Doron asked. It looked like he was trying to contain himself, as if he didn’t want to boast and say that if someone wanted to harm the place, they should be trying to take him, the security guard, away, and not the Rav’s sons. But he didn’t say anything.
“I don’t know,” the son replied.
Mrs. Reiness suddenly whispered something to him. He whispered urgently back, and then Nechemia joined their huddle. They spoke quietly amongst themselves for a few moments, gesturing tensely, and then Nechemia came back to us. “Was anyone here when we were out?” he asked.
“No,” Doron said.
“Yes,” I said. “Someone wanted to meet you or your father, to give him something.”
“He asked if my father is here? Or if we are here?” The older Reiness son suddenly spoke in a very loud voice, almost a shout.
“Yes,” I said.
“And you said that we’re not?”
“Yes,” I repeated.
“What did you want him to do, lie?” Mrs. Reiness asked tiredly.
I didn’t dare add that not only had I said that there was no Reiness here, but I had even signed for the guy. Not that I understood what was going on here; I just knew that everything was getting all messed up. And I, as always, was to blame.