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S2E81: The Whole Story

Nicole Jeffords 7 months ago

“No kidding!” I said excitedly. “I’m doing some research on Daniel Gottlieb. Can you please tell me the whole story?”

Gideon took a large sip of whiskey and lit another cigarette. I wasn’t sure how old he was — somewhere in his eighties? (Turns out he was ninety-four.) He had age spots on his hands and his fingers shook a little as he lifted his cigarette to his mouth, but otherwise he seemed spry and healthy. His voice rang clear as a bell as he blew out smoke and said: “Daniel himself was a nice man, very kind, a biochemist at Teva Pharmaceuticals. When he came to Israel, then still Palestine, he divorced his wife, which was scandalous in those days, and married a much younger woman, Idit, with whom he had three daughters. I think he wanted a son, but that never happened.” He paused, staring at the wedding guests, his eyes going slightly out of focus. I thought perhaps he’d forgotten what he was talking about and so I said: “Did you ever hear about an ancient book of remedies called the Bukh that belonged to Daniel?”

“Yes, yes, I’m coming to that,” Gideon said, shifting his attention back to me. “Daniel’s youngest daughter, Hannah, married a diamond dealer named Jonathan Coreff whose family was from the Ukraine — Kiev, I believe. Now this guy, Jonathan, was very handsome, but a real crook. I can tell you that with certainty because he sold me a bad diamond and refused to give me my money back when I confronted him. Everyone knew what a piece of shit he was, but Hannah stuck by him, even when he was sent to jail for fraud.”

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Jonathan Coreff, in his later years

“Now I’m telling you this because you, daughter of Gustave Schindler, have a certain relationship to the Coreff family.”

My eyes bugged out when he said this. What the hell was he talking about?”

“Gustave’s second cousin, Hugo Schindler, married Coreff’s daughter, Lizzie, and moved her to Toronto.”

I thought about this a moment. “Gustave didn’t have a cousin Hugo.”

“Yes, he did. I knew him personally. Hugo’s grandfather, Stefan, was the black sheep of the family and broke off relations with his siblings. Hugo was brought up here in Israel.”

Jesus. What else didn’t I know? “Did Hugo have a son named Eric?”

“After he and Lizzie moved to Toronto, yes. A historian, very nice young man. I met him a couple of times when he came to Israel to research that book you were talking about.”

So Eric and I were indeed cousins. “What happened to the Bukh,” I asked quickly. I could see Gideon’s energy was flagging.

“Yes, I was just getting to that. Jonathan Coreff stole the book from his father-in-law and sold it for high dollar on the black market. At least that’s what we think. No one’s seen that book in over seventy years. It just disappeared into some kind of black hole.”

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