Continued from Under the Cover of Time, Part 1
July 15, 1935
There were many towns across the country with fewer residents than Tudor City. There were normally about 4,500 people living there, but that day the population came within a heartbeat of dropping to 4,499.
A green-and-black Ford pulled to the curb on Tudor Place, the bubble on its roof throwing an angry red glare into the gloaming. After the driver slapped a red, white and blue "Police Business" placard on the dash, two of New York’s finest, Mike Grath and Vincent Lorenzo, climbed from the car and headed to the park across the street, where several uniformed cops from the precinct struggled to hold the curious at bay. The scene was lit by intermittent pools of light cast by popping flash bulbs.
One of the uniformed cops walked out to meet the two detectives as they entered the park.
“Glad you’re here, Mike. This guy’s a celeb, and the press is all over it like stink on shit.”
“Oh, yeah? What we got?”
“Guy from across the street.” The cop jerked his head toward the gothic-looking building on the other side of Tudor Place. “He was walkin' home from Grand Central and when he gets near that fountain over there, some palooka with a shiv jumps him. He’s cut up pretty bad, but the doc says he’ll make it. He’s real lucky he ain’t dead. The meat wagon’s gonna take him down to Bellevue in a few minutes.”
“Yeah, I guess. Who the hell knows? Don’t see it as a hit. No reason I know anybody’d want him dead. Besides, who’s dumb enough to pull a hit with a knife that time of day? Wasn't even full dark yet.” The cop shrugged. “But if it was a robbery, Mikey, it was a botch job. He's still got money and a swell pocket watch."
A small scuffle broke out in the growing crowd at the fountain as the looky-loos jostled for position, and the three policemen turned to look.
Mike turned to his partner. “Vinny, you better get over there. Looks like it’s turning ugly.”
Lorenzo clamped his fedora down firmly onto his head and trotted down the path toward the fountain, shouting “Hey! Back up, everybody. This is police business. You jamokes wanna get hauled off to the hoosegow for interfering with an investigation?”
“Who the hell is that?” Grath asked the patrolman. “Fiorello LaGuardia?”
“It’s Abie Cohen, Mike. You know, catcher for the Dodgers.”
“Abie Cohen? No kidding. My boy’s got a bunch of his baseball cards."
"Don't think you're gonna get an autograph from him today. He ain't conscious."
The two cops start walking toward the hubbub, and Grath asks, "Don't suppose we got any idea who the goon with the knife was?"
"Nah. He's long gone."
The cop lifted his cap, scratched the top of his bald head, and settled the cap back in place. "Yeah. But, see, here's where it gets dicey."
Grath raised his eyebrows. "How so?"
"Well, coupla kids, about eleven or twelve, I'd say, were out here playin' ball on the other side of the fountain. They'd didn't get a good look at the stabber, never noticed him, or Cohen, for that matter, because of the fountain. But they got a glimpse of him when he ran away. Just an ordinary lookin' guy, they said. Just before that, though, there was another guy walking by who caught a ball for them. The ball got away from one of 'em and was about to go into the fountain. This guy catches it, and tosses it back. They asked him to join the game, but he said he hadda get home."
"Yeah, and? What's this got to do with the attack on Cohen?"
"Well, right after, when the guy starts to walk away, apparently he sees the guy hackin' away at Cohen. He shouts and the guy runs away. Too bad he didn't shout sooner, because the goon had plenty of time to turn Cohen into swiss cheese. Even so, the doc says this guy probably saved Cohen's life. Then he just disappears. We think he's the one who called the cops, but we have no idea who he is. Gone, poof in the night.
July 31, 1945
"Leah!" Abie burst through the door of the apartment, his voice filled with excitement. "Leah, where are you?"
Leah Cohen walked out of the kitchen, wiping her hands on her apron. "And where else would I be right before dinner, silly man?"
She kisses her husband's cheek, and asks, "What's wound you up, Abie?"
“Look.” He held the magazine out to his wife. “Today’s the day.”
The Cohens had been waiting for the publication of the cover article ever since Abie was interviewed. It wasn’t the first time he’d been featured in a magazine article. There had been many stories about his baseball career. But this was the first time he was pictured on the cover. And on Chronos magazine. Wow.
“Oh, Abie. I can’t wait to read it, but it’ll have to wait until after dinner. The brisket is almost ready. Go wash up.”
Lean runs her hand over the cover photo of Abie in his Dodger’s uniform, then carefully puts the magazine down on the sideboard and heads to the kitchen to take up their dinner.
After they eat and the dishes have been done, she settled on the couch next to the reading lamp and opened the magazine to the story about her husband.
“Unsung Hero.” She smiled at Abie. “Imagine!”
Across the living room, Abie switched on the Philco and tuned to The Arthur Godfrey Hour. As he sat listening, he never took his eyes from his wife’s face as she read.
Her eyes flew to his face. “Abie! Oh my God!”
Leah knew he was overseas during his service, of course. But she’d thought that he was a part of a group of former sports celebrities, making the USO circuit from base to base. She had no idea what he really did or that he’d been behind enemy lines.
“Abie, why didn’t you tell me?”
Shock is turning to anger, as he’d suspected it might. Before he left, she’d made him promise that he wouldn’t do anything that would put him in danger.
Abie came to her side and squatted down next to the chair. “Ah, Leah, I couldn’t. It was all classified. Besides, I knew you would worry.”
“I know. I’m sorry, Honey. Please try to understand. I just couldn’t tell you. I’d have been court-martialed.” He took her hand and kissed it. “You see that, right?”
Leah had never been one to stay mad long. Even before he was through speaking, he could see she was softening.
“Besides, it’s all over now. I’m home for good. Go on, finish reading.”
Leah skewered him with a piercing look that said, OK, but if you EVER do something like that again... Then she looked back down at the magazine and picked up the article where she’d left off.
“Abie! Oh, my God!” The shock was there again, but it was wrapped in awe rather than anger. “Oh. My. God.” She said again as the realization of what the words she’d just read meant sank in, her voice barely a whisper. Then she threw her arms around her husband and cried.
“Sshh, ssh, Bubbala.” Abie rubbed his hands slowly over her back. When she’d calmed down, he told her about it, as much as he could anyway.
“Thank God you didn’t listen to me. Thank God you were there,” she said.
“I almost wasn’t. Remember when I was robbed in the park across the street about ten years ago?”
“As if I could ever forget!” Leah exclaimed.
“That night, a man came along when I was being stabbed over and over, and he scared the robber away. I’m pretty sure if he hadn’t, the robber would have killed me. The doctor told us that I almost didn’t make it as it was.”
Leah put her arms around her husband again. “He’s the one who called the police, isn’t he?””
“Yes. He saved my life. Leah, he hadn’t come at just the right time, I’d be dead. And if you’d stayed in New York, so would you.”
July 15, 2005
Finn can’t shake the dream he had while dozing on the couch.
It seemed so real, he thinks as he enters his kitchen, which has a dry floor, he’s pleased to note. He pulls open the refrigerator door and gazes in, but he sees nothing that strikes his fancy.
He catches another whiff of brisket. His stomach growls and that decides it. He’ll head over to the Tudor City Deli and get some brisket for himself.
Before heading out, Finn grabs the Chronos from the floor and goes out to get an elevator.
While he rides downstairs, he glances at the magazine in his hand, and realizes that his dream was probably triggered by the fascinating article he’d read about Abie Cohen in the old publication. He decides to read it again while he eats. It feels like a legacy Abie Cohen left behind just for him, hidden away under the sink.
As he walks across the park, Finn waves to the boys playing ball near the fountain.
The character of Abie Cohen is loosely based on Moe Berg, who was a bit of a Renaissance man for his time. A successful major league baseball player, Berg finished second in his class at Columbia Law School while playing for the Chicago White Sox. During WWII, he served with the OSS, spying in Europe for the US Government.
Written for The Tenth Daughter of Memory.