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Murder in JerusalemA Michael Ohayon Mystery
By Batya Gur
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Batya Gur
All right reserved.
Michael Ohayon laid A Suitable Boy, the heavy volume in which he had been immersed for weeks, especially the past two, during his vacation, at the foot of his bed. How was it possible to write a novel like this and at the same time live one's life? How suddenly familiar and true were the claims voiced by many women in his life, claims he had heard often enough from his only son as well, about the manner in which he lost himself in his work, how there was no approaching him while he was on a case. To create and write about some reality or to investigate it seemed suddenly to him like the very same effort, the very same anxiety.
A sudden noise cut his thoughts short. He hurried to the hallway, and from there to the bathroom. He had left the cabinet door under the sink open so that the dampness there would not grow moldy. The bucket he had placed under the sink had overturned, as if a cat had passed by. But no cat had passed by. The windows were shut and the blinds were closed and rain was pounding and a puddle of dirty water was gathering by the front door. There was no explanation for the overturned bucket. "The butterfly effect," Tzilla would say had she witnessed the scene, which would becertain to irritate Balilty: "Effects again?" he would exclaim. "Butterflies again? Aren't you fed up with all that yet? What's the matter, aren't there any other explanations in the world? Let's see you, for once, just say 'I don't know'!" Michael returned to his bedroom and glanced at the full packet of cigarettes lying next to the reading lamp on the small night table. He had not smoked the whole day. The first week of his vacation he had spent counting and rationing. Each day he had smoked two fewer cigarettes than the day before. Later, when he understood that he would need twenty days in order to quit smoking entirely while he had at his disposal only one last week to make his abstinence a fait accompli, he had stopped smoking all at once. Five days had passed since his last cigarette. Perhaps that was why he was unable to fall asleep. And now the overturned bucket had jolted him into wakefulness. He would return to his book, that would be best. One thing he could say about this book for sure was that its wonderful collection of characters and historical events managed, occasionally, to divert his attention from smoking.
At the very moment he managed to settle into just the right position and had nearly immersed himself in the book again, the telephone rang.
Every work of art must be the result of overcoming obstacles; the more meaningful its execution is, the harder the obstacles seem to be, as if the creator has been put to the test against the very right that was granted him -- or that he took for himself -- to fulfill his own dream. Sometimes it even seems possible to think of obstacles and difficulties as the motivating force behind such creativity; in defiance, spiteful, as it were, but without which . . . Benny Meyuhas shook himself free of these musings, looking first at the monitor and then at Schreiber, the only cameraman he was willing to work with on this film. Schreiber's smooth, large, white face was shining when he lifted his head from the camera lens. Benny Meyuhas touched his shoulders and moved him gently aside in order to get a peek through the lens, and then he too saw the figure standing at the edge of the roof, near the railing, holding the hem of her white gown in her hand, her drawn and pale face turned to the dark sky. He lifted his head and pointed at the moon.
Rain had fallen all week, especially at night, and even though the weather forecasters had noted repeatedly that these rains were beneficial, welcome, appearing now in mid-December as the harbinger of a wonderful winter, Benny Meyuhas was beside himself; it seemed to him that the head of the Production Department himself had ordered this rain in order to prevent him from the night filming of Iddo and Eynam, or, as he put it, "to finish up already with that thing that's eaten up our entire budget for Israeli drama." Just when Benny had lost all hope of completing these last scenes, which were being filmed in secret, if not absolutely underground due to the threat -- which no crew member had actually mentioned but everyone knew -- that Matty Cohen, head of production, could at any moment appear on the set and put a stop to the whole project, the rain suddenly let up and the moon appeared, as if it had consented to perform its role and cast light on the path of Gemullah the somnambulist, the heroine of Agnon's story, as she sleepwalked at the edge of the roof and sang songs from her childhood.
As a matter of fact, just then on that very night as the rain stopped and the moon appeared, Matty Cohen was on his way to the set, and at ten minutes to midnight was standing on the second-story catwalk in the narrow, open hallway above the storerooms, very near the doorway that led to the roof. The people on the roof, however, did not know this; no one had seen him pass by. As large and heavy as he was, his footsteps were always light and quick; he mounted the narrow metal steps quietly and passed by scenery and pillars illuminated by dim light from naked bulbs that created a mix of darkness and shadows. Matty Cohen stopped there, on the catwalk, and peered below to the long, narrow, darkened hallway on whose walls leaned pieces of scenery, their shadows climbing to the corners of the ceiling. Someone unfamiliar with the place -- a child, a . . .
Excerpted from Murder in Jerusalem by Batya Gur Copyright © 2006 by Batya Gur. Excerpted by permission.
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