Disappeared into some kind of black hole? WTF? Both Maria and Sabina had seen the Bukh with their own eyes in Gheorghe’s apartment in the house in Brasov. Maria claims to have destroyed it. That didn’t jibe with Gideon’s story that the Bukh had been sold for a fortune by crooked Jonathan Coreff. Which story was true? I decided I had to see Eric Schindler, who’d been less than honest with me. Our flight home was via Toronto. I would get off there for a night and have dinner with my cousin.
Eric was a mess. A week after his return from Romania, his wife had miscarried — not for the first time, he told me. They’d been trying to have a child for years, without success.
“Well, I’m sorry to hear that,” I said. “Very sorry. But why did you lie to me about our family connection?”
We were having dinner at the Sheraton Gateway, in the Toronto airport. After a twelve hour flight, I wasn’t in great shape, but I’d slept on the plane and taken a nap at the hotel, so there was some level of coherency. Eric himself looked pale and sweaty in his smart business suit.
“I didn’t lie,” he said. “I just didn’t talk about it.”
I studied him, noting the resemblance of his face to my father’s. “That’s a lie by omission,” I said.
“Who gives a fuck?” He took a quick sip of wine. “My great grandfather, who was your grandfather’s brother, was a real schmuck. No one in the family could stand him. The only time I met him was when he was on his deathbed coughing his lungs out. I’d never seen anyone that old or sick before.”
“How old were you?”
“Six. It was my first trip to Israel. I never got to meet my grandfather Coreff on the other side of the family because he was in jail by then. In fact, this is really awful, but he died in jail. Hanged himself.”
“I’m so sorry.”
“Don’t be. Coreff was the scum of the earth. On the other hand,” he sighed, “if it hadn’t been for him I’d never have gotten into my lifelong obsession with the Bukh.”