Today, I’m showcasing “A Question of Allegiance.” A Day at the Zoo laid out all the characters and backstory. The trick with follow-on novels in the series was to make each novel standalone. Cue lists of key moments to be explained, biographies, and, due to the language, ensuring that each term is spelled and used consistently.
This is also where I started using the calendar of Jewish holidays to anchor the story. While AD@tZ was merely sometime in February, AQoA and The Property of Blood were closely following the first in the time line.
Okay, maybe this is TMI from author to reader. But the Jewish holidays each represent concepts of the book itself, adding a layer of texture. I hope you enjoy the book!
Oh, and remember, there’s a sale on both books throughout the month of July! The @Smashwords sale is part of their Annual Summer/Winter Sale. Be sure to follow me for more updates and links to the promotion for my books and many more! #SWSale2023 #Smashwords.
Buy A Day at the Zoo
Here’s an excerpt from the novel, A Question of Allegiance:
Donuts. The curse of cops the fashtunkeneh—awful—things were. Chocolate. Chocolate and some fruit thing. Jam. And maybe a little vanilla I smelled, too. Chocolate was expensive so much almost no one had it to give away.
My mouth watered. I glanced over mine left shoulder behind me what to see who was there. A crowd of hungry cops is what was there. Lieutenant Dawson was by them in the middle, glaring at two uniformed officers who maybe should have been bloodhounds. Or maybe Intel.
I got up, then in mine chair sat back down. Today was Ta’anis Ester—the Fast of Queen Esther. So, no breakfast. Also, not at all eating today until the Purim holiday celebration tonight. Cake, cookies, and booze for me awaited. And no donuts. Chaya, mine wife five years to me married, being pregnant, today could eat anything. Jealousy is for between a couple a bad thing to feel.
At the Austin Police Department, I’ve been a detective for three years. Haredi—what we call ourselves, and what others call ultra-Orthodox, usually didn’t work outside of cities with big Jewish communities. But when they a detective badge waved at me, I took it, even if our little shtetl community was smaller than even Skokie was.
“Hey, Myers, want a donut? Dawson brought them in from one of your bakeries, for the squad.”
He meant a kosher one. I wasn’t enough hungry that into sin it would tempt me. Dawson above his head waved one. Almost I could see others getting ready to jump up for it. He over six feet stood, big and muscled and like a fallen oak leaf black. He polished his kopf like a radar dome instead of growing out hair to cut.
“Thanks, but I can’t today,” I said, standing up again. “I gift it to you.” At him I made a little bow.
He snorted and back to the group of cops turned. “What am I bid for Shmuley’s donut?”
A funny man. I sat back down. Just another slow afternoon in the APD homicide squad room.
Mine desk, what I named Shmendrick, meaning idiot, had electronic clutter on its top windows and objects. And that was on the screen part only. On the desk itself was the Austin-American Statesman newspaper, in print.
It I opened first, and over to the classified section went. Mine eyes went to one tiny ad, just a line. “Stocker Needed.” A phone number, and an extension. A message for me, from Upline. A when and where, and to where, like a secret taxi ride.
Upline helped women escape the Preborn Investigation Bureau, “PIBniks,” or “GodForce” as most called them. Women who were by accident pregnant and needed the whole United States to escape to get an abortion. Or to help rescue helpers who the PIB were looking for. I, from before even I moved to Austin, worked for them, moving people. Hiding people. Like the enslaved people from the South up North being smuggled. Not something mine police department would like for a homicide sergeant to be doing, for sure.
I closed the paper and into a drawer put it. The stack of folders next I looked at. Audits, the commander had decreed. Audits of a certain former Detective Simmons, who turned out not to be one of the good people. A murderer, almost, of me, mine wife Chaya, and the little fetus that in her was growing.
That last piece into such trouble he got him daylight he would never see. Sure, trying to bomb your partner and his wife was bad. But a preborn trying to murder brought on him down the wrath of the GodForce—Preborn Investigation Bureau—with their lawyers and prosecutors and special powers.
Fine, so auditing I had to do. Mine punishment for surviving him trying to blow us up. The stack of papers setting on fire with mine eyes I tried. Not enough strong a glare. I sighed and pulled the next folder open, to read what five years ago he did that might have been wrong.
Simmons, yemach shemo—may his name be erased—was maybe inside APD part of a terror group. Fighting crime wasn’t for them good enough. Killing people they thought were guilty was what they wanted. For them I was looking—because mine other job was as a Mogen Dovid for the Jewish Sanhedrin. A defender of our people—the Jewish people. To APD and GodForce, though, the Sanhedrin was a terrorist organization. If they even knew it existed. And on mine hands already I had blood.
This folder was from eight years ago. A murder, no fetuses involved. Religion not involved either. On the “maybe” pile I put it. The “no” pile an ant could see over. For “yes,” there was no pile. Later that would pile up, for after I reread each folder in the “maybe” pile.
Mine electronic clutter swept to one side of mine desk, and a picture of a phone in its place appeared. I tapped mine earbud. “Detective Myers.”
“How’s it going, pahdnah?” Most Blessed Jethro Waters, mine liaison to the Preborn Investigation Bureau, like on a horse, a cowboy he sounded. Also, loopy a little.
“I don’t have a partner,” I said. “I’m a—ah—alone ranger.”
“Lone Ranger. Lone Ranger, Shmuley. You’ve got to work on your idioms.”
“We didn’t have Lone Rangers where I grew up.” Because where I grew up, we only had the Torah, and the Gemara—Talmud—and books by rabbis about things only to be more Jewish to know. Vids only of religious topics, for kids even too there was only ‘kosher’ programming.
“Whatever. You’ve got me, like it or not. Pahdnah.”
“Oh, did you apply to APD? I hear there’s an opening for a homicide detective.”
“Ha,” Jethro said. “Yeah, Simmons. That’s the reason for my call. “Clear, his voice got, the Abilene from his accent disappearing. But still to me he looked like on drugs.
“Nu? You done interrogating him?” To the PIBniks Simmons, from the hospital being discharged got transferred. Federal, they said, trumping our local jurisdiction. Because of a fetus he tried to hurt, not for two real humans almost at his hands dying.
“Yes,” Jethro said. On screen his face sagged like when too close beeswax got to a candle. From firm to loose. Medications, I hoped. “We’re done interrogating him.”
“And he was found dead in his cell about twenty minutes ago.”