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The ShortRead: D.A. Mishani

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The ShortRead of 27th August

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A Possibility of Violence

Author: D.A. Mishani

What's the story:

D.A. Mishani knows his way around a crime thriller. A literary scholar, he specialised in the history of detective fiction during his studies - a background that saw his first novel The Missing File scoop up a number of international crime awards earlier this year.

A Possibility of Violence revisits the world of Israeli Detective Avraham Avraham. Having returned from a much needed holiday, the detective is sucked back into a world of suspicion and fear when a bomb is found in a suitcase near a daycare centre in a quiet suburb of Tel Aviv. But this suitcase is only the start of a chase that sees Avraham hoping to atone for his own past failures.

Release date: Out now

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Extract

Chills passed through Avraham’s body when he entered the interrogation room for the first time in three months. The air-conditioner had been running since morning and the room was cold. He remembered well the last time he had sat there, and the woman who had sat across from him then.

In the months that had passed, he imagined more than once the next interrogation he’d conduct in this room. He pictured his initial entrance into the room, steady and sure of himself, thought about the first questions he’d ask, in a stern voice. It wasn’t supposed to take place on his first day back, but maybe it was just as well that this was how it had happened. Like leaping off a cliff into a stormy sea, with no preparation.

The first details he saw when he sat down across from the suspect were the dark, narrow face, the small black eyes, and, afterwards, the thin arms, from which thick veins protruded. His palms were dirty, as were the nails. Average height, thin, unshaven. Maybe in his thirties. The suspect sat on the other side of the long table. He asked, ‘Who are you?’ but Avraham ignored his question. He organized the papers in front of him as if he were alone in the room. He hadn’t managed to delve into the material, only glanced at it briefly during the short conversation he’d had with the beat policeman who arrested the suspect during the early-morning hours.

According to the report the beat policeman had written, the message about the suitcase was received at the call centre at 6.44. Even though it was likely to be a false alarm, and despite the lack of manpower, a unit was immediately sent to Lavon Street. The police officers on patrol weren’t able to locate the scene, so at their request the call centre contacted the woman who made the call, and she came down to the street in a robe and directed the police officers. Less than ten minutes later the bomb squad arrived, ordered the road closed to traffic and pedestrians, and began making preparations to neutralize the suspicious object. The initial inspection of the suitcase revealed a Supratec alarm clock, connected by electric wires to a bottle of 7Up, in which there was an unidentified liquid, and what looked like a detonation device. According to the bomb squad’s notes, the suitcase was blown up at 7.50.

A moment before he opened the door to the interrogation room Avraham sent a text message to Marianka: Going into an unplanned interrogation. I’ll call when I get out. She answered him straight away: The vacation’s over? Good luck!

Everything was ready.

The recording device was working.

He asked the suspect his name and the suspect said, ‘Amos Uzan. You a copper? You realize I’ve been waiting here five hours already?’

He didn’t bother responding. ‘Date of birth.’

‘Mine? July the tenth, 1980.’

‘Address?’

‘Twenty-six Hatzionut.’

‘In Holon?’

‘In Las Vegas.’

‘Profession?’

‘Conductor of the Philharmonic.’ Amos Uzan smiled. ‘No profession. Write I’m not presently working.’

According to the beat officer’s report, Uzan was not a musician. He had been a chef at Café Riviera, afterwards owned a small business fixing motorcycles, and in the end a little kiosk in downtown Holon. In addition to the income from those businesses, it appeared he made some money from modest illegal activities – mainly as a drug mule and hash dealer. He was born in Bat Yam and raised without a father, with two older sisters, in a family social services knew well. Dropped out of high school. Mother was a hairdresser. His first criminal charge came at the age of fifteen. He was stopped with a friend in a stolen vehicle. Avraham looked at him, then returned his gaze to the papers. He said, ‘You’re suspected of placing, near a nursery on Lavon Street, in the early hours today, a—’ but Uzan cut him off: ‘What are you talking about? A guy leaves his house to take a morning walk and they arrest him. What do I have to do with a nursery?’

‘That will soon be clear.’

‘So why did you arrest me, then? Do you even have any evidence?’

From the hurried glance at the file, and from the short briefing with the beat officer, it appeared that they didn’t have any evidence. Uzan had been arrested thanks to the resourcefulness of the policewoman, who before the fake bomb was blown up gathered detailed testimony from the woman who had left the message. She was sixty-four years old, retired. Woke up early that morning in order to begin cleaning for Rosh Hashanah. Opened the shutters in the living room and hung the rugs on the windowsill to air them. She planned to beat them only after eight. Her husband was still asleep. When she was spreading out the rugs she’d seen a man enter the courtyard of the building at 6 Lavon. Actually she didn’t see him entering but rather crouching among the bushes in the courtyard, as if he were searching for something. At first she thought he was a tenant who had dropped something from above. Afterwards, she’d seen him hide the suitcase behind the bushes, next to the path leading to the nursery. Why did the thing look peculiar to her? Because the dustbins stood just a few metres away, and if he were a tenant in the building, he would have thrown away the suitcase there. And why hide it carefully like that behind the bushes and not place it on the pavement? The building where the witness resided was located at the end of the street, but the sight line from her window was pretty decent. In her field of view there were some treetops and an electricity pole, but they didn’t obstruct it. She estimated that she watched the suspect for more than a minute, and said that he didn’t leave immediately but instead remained, looking around. Despite the distance, the witness feared that he would see her and she retreated back into the living room. When she stuck her head out again, the suspect had already fled in the other direction, towards Aharonovitch Street. Walking slowly, not running. It seemed to her that he limped. Her description was sketchy, as expected. The suspect was short, with a thin build and, as far as she could remember, wore sweatpants and a hooded sweatshirt that was brown, or some other dark colour. She couldn’t see the features of his face.

A few minutes after collecting the testimony, the beat police officer identified the suspect in a crowd that had gathered at the end of the cordoned-off street, his build and clothing matching the description provided by the witness. The suspect had observed the blowing up of the bomb and looked nervous. When the beat officer asked for his identification, he took off at a fast run. He managed to get about thirty metres before one of the police officers in the area grabbed him. Uzan wasn’t carrying identification and denied that he was trying to flee. He denied all ties to the suitcase and claimed that he was there because he had gone down to buy bread and milk. He refused at first to provide his identification number but was persuaded to do so. A check at the Criminal Record Database made it clear that he had a few previous convictions, most of them drug offences.

Avraham said to him, ‘We’ll reveal the evidence when we decide to. In the meantime, tell me what you did this morning on Lavon Street,’ and Uzan replied, ‘What anybody does. I went out to get some fresh air.’

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