Maury Z. Levy

Lynne Abraham is the Best Man We’ve Got!

In Philadelphia Magazine (1970-1980) on September 16, 2009 at 1:39 am

Philly DA

SHE WAS VERY DEFINITELY DEAD. There was a bullet in her back. It had been there for two weeks. Today she died. Two cops brought her in from the hospital. They had been trying to keep her alive since they found her shot in a speakeasy with a Saturday Night Special. They carried her in on a stretcher and dumped her down on a tray. A man with a Polaroid camera hurried around to take pictures. They would go in the official morgue file, probably under a number because no one knew her name.

She was a dark black woman who looked like she was in her 40s. She was built big. When she was alive, she had very large breasts. Now that the life fluids were out of them, they were just large sacks drooping down both sides of her chest. The assistant medical examiner, trying to get a look at a scar on her side, pushed the right breast up and over back onto the chest, packing it firm with his hands so it would stay in place, the same way the guy behind the delicatessen counter makes a cold roast beef sandwich.

He rolled her over on her side and saw the hole in her back. “There’s our bullet,” he said, sticking his finger in the hole to try to get it out. “Son of a bitch won’t move.”

Lynne Abraham stepped closer. “Let me try it,” she said. She took off her lumber jacket and tossed it on the table. She tucked her Temple University T-shirt into her straight-legged jeans and went to work. Between the two of them, they got the bullet out. Lynne Abraham stepped back to get a paper towel. Some of the blood that now covered her index finger had dripped down on her white sneakers with the pointy toes.

It was a beautiful Sunday outside the morgue. The sun was strong and it was getting downright balmy. It was a nice day for a bike ride in the park. But the executive director of the Redevelopment Authority preferred spending her Sunday living with the dead. It was just force of habit. It wasn’t so long ago that she spent a good deal of time down here, as a top assistant district attorney in the homicide division. She would come down and watch autopsies. And since she had some background in forensic medicine, she might even help in some of them. Sometimes she found out more than the medical examiner. She always found out more than the cops.

She’d go from the morgue to the crime scene and dig up her own witnesses, collect her own evidence and prepare a closed case. It was her style, and she just can’t shake it.

A couple of hours ago, she was reading over proposals for the redevelopment of Washington Square West. Now she is walking in the refrigerator, a giant cold storage cabinet for unburied dead people on aluminum tables. She walks down the aisle and rolls them out like cheese trays, examining the wounds, figuring out the angle of entry of the bullet. She doesn’t want to get stale on this stuff. She is, after all, a political appointee. And she knows very well that one day she could be shipped right back to the DA’s office quicker than you could say Frank Rizzo.  

She’s not a political person. She made this clear when she took the job. But she knows how to handle politicians. And she knows what she wants. First she wants to clean up the mess at the Redevelopment Authority and then she wants to be a judge. Like everything else, she’s very open and forward about all this. Very definite.

She’s a tough broad, this Lynne Abraham. She looks it. Take away the bitty blobs of blue eye shadow and you could pass her off as a derby skater. She’s chunky like a can of solid white albacore tuna. She’s got a hard face and a soft smile and a back-slapping laugh. She talks loud and fast. She enjoys herself. She wears her hair in what some people used to call a boyish style. It’s short, teased just a little on the top, with a few streaks of gray frosting to break up the brown. She’s always about ten years off in her dress. She either looks like a college kid from the early ’60s or a matron in her 40s. She is, in fact, 32.

She’s seen a lot in those years. She doesn’t flinch at the dead bodies anymore. She got over that a long time ago. She walks out of the freezer and says her goodbyes to the guys in the glass office near the delivery door. She has to talk loud to be heard over the sound of the sawing of bones.

As she walks out, two cops are bringing in another body. She greets them and they stop and she pulls down the sheet to see the man’s face. It is gray and worn and shriveled. “Another tanker?” she asks. The cops nod their heads. “We’ve really got to do something about Skid Row,” she says. “Everybody just ignores it.” She makes a mental note. She jumps off the loading deck, jogs to her car and drives back to the Parkway. The stale blood has dried on her sneakers.

JOAN OF ARC IS GLITTERING COLD. Lynne Abraham loves that statue. A woman alone on a horse out to conquer a world. She drives by it every day on her way home to her apartment in Menopause Manor. That’s what she calls it, anyway. It’s actually 2601 Parkway. She lives there alone in a one-bedroom apartment that’s comfortably furnished with pieces of no particular period. There’s an Earth Week poster on the wall.

She walks in and takes off her gun and puts it on the bed and goes over to the record player and puts on an album by a soft rock group called America. The lead song is “A Horse with No Name.”

She goes into the kitchen to make a late breakfast. She squeezes some orange juice and fries up some bacon and eggs, buns and rolls, toast and coffee. She stuffs it all down. “I’m going to have to go on a diet someday,” she says. “But I’m just too busy for that now. Sometimes I just get so damn tired. I was working all day yesterday. I was supposed to go out last night. I just couldn’t do it. I stayed home and cleaned my closets.”

There are some people who say that Lynne Abraham has taken on more than she can handle, that she’s too young, too inexperienced and that the Redevelopment Authority’s closets are going to be a lot harder to clean, what with all the skeletons and everything. Lynne Abraham is working all of her waking hours to prove the skeptics wrong.

There’s a little sign on the back of the front door to her apartment that stares her in the face every morning when she wakes up with a neat little motto. “When you’re up to your ass in alligators, it’s hard to realize that your primary job is to drain the swamps.”

MONDAY MORNING’S COMING DOWN. Close to 500 people have filed into the 11th and 12th floors of City Hall Annex. Lynne Abraham is their boss. A lot of them are afraid of her. She started the heads rolling the day she took over. She had dozens of telephones ripped out. If a secretary wants to spend her day talking to her friends, she says, let her use a pay phone. She hired a former police inspector to check on her field workers, just to make sure they are where they say they are. She walks the floors herself just to make sure everybody’s doing what they’re supposed to do.

This morning she checks the ladies’ rooms, then she walks the aisles. She stops at the desk of a young secretary. The girl doesn’t notice her standing there. She’s too busy reading to look up. She’s reading The Happy Hooker. Lynne Abraham waits a minute and then she interrupts. “Let me know when you get to the good part,” she says. The girl gets flustered, tosses the book in a drawer and gets to work. Lynne Abraham continues her walking tour.

“I just won’t tolerate any screwing around on the job,” she says. “On a personal level I think I’m a very gentle soul. But when it comes to business, brother, don’t fuck me.”

Lynne Abraham wants to keep tight controls, as much as she can over 500 people. “All I want is honest government,” she says. “I know that sounds corny, but when you’re dealing with a $40 million budget, it’s an awesome responsibility. But I just know I can make it work. This might be an ego trip, but I can make it.

“What we’re supposed to be doing here is very complicated. In the simplest of terms, the role of the Redevelopment Authority is to eliminate urban blight. That’s one of those pie in the sky, catch-all phrases. We find a blighted area, draw up urban renewal plans, buy up the property—or if the owners don’t want to sell, get it by eminent domain—and we award contracts to redevelop the property. All of that sounds simple enough, except for all the shit that goes on in between and behind the scenes. That’s why this department has been so rife with scandal.

“The mayor doesn’t like scandal. He asked me to come in here and clean things up. He wanted me to be tough. And I am tough. Right away people started calling me Rizzo’s new cookie, his new broom.”

Frank Rizzo has his own way of putting it. “Lynne Abraham,” he says, “she’s the best man we’ve got.”

LYNNE ABRAHAM HAS ALWAYS been considered one of the boys. It’s the old cliché about making it in a man’s world. She was the tomboy of her block in West Philadelphia. She was down on the street all hours of the day and night, hitting the half ball. Later her family moved to West Oak Lane. She and her younger sister went to Pennypacker and Wagner and Germantown.

Her mother was, and still is, a typical Jewish mother. Her father was a bookie. He had other jobs, in sales and such, but mostly he was a bookie.

“My father was a bookmaker, much to my chagrin,” Lynne Abraham says. “And I say this with all due love and respect for my father, who is now deceased. Like he wasn’t sticking up banks or anything like that. He just wandered into bookmaking. It was an interesting way to make a living and he did okay at it.

“I used to hang around with my father all the time, and go on his route with him to see all the horse players. And they were an interesting group. Sometimes they’d pay him in money if he won, and sometimes he’d get paid in groceries. And this is not to mean that my father had customers who were poor. The people who paid us in groceries were very wealthy. We had a credit at a well-known apartment house commissary, where we would walk in every month and get tons of canned goods and meats and stuff.

“But when I got to law school, I started thinking about the whole thing. And I went to my father and said to him, ‘You know, Daddy, it just would not look too cool. I can see it now—‘Lawyer’s Father Arrested for Bookmak­ing.’ You just have to stop. The time has come when you’ve got to draw the line for me, if not for yourself. You’re always watching the cops chasing you, and you always have flash paper in your pockets. You’re going to set yourself on fire one day.’ ”

Lynne Abraham finally set her father straight. She got him into a relatively respectable line of work—selling real estate in New Jersey. She tutored him almost every night. He wasn’t an educated man but he was smart. “He took a course and then the real estate salesman’s exam in New Jersey and he passed. He came home that night and ripped up all his horse books and announced he was going straight.”

Lynne Abraham worked too. She worked her way through Temple and then Temple Law School. She helped produce Frank Ford’s radio show on WPEN six nights a week. And in the afternoons, she worked in an office. It wasn’t a law office, though. Being a lawyer was not her first choice.

“I always wanted to be a physician,” she says. “The world’s greatest surgeon you’re looking at—almost. It’s not that I was too dumb to be a doctor, because I’m not. In fact, I know a terrific amount about anatomy, physiology and so forth. But I felt that at the time of my life after I finished college, the prospect of fighting to get into medical school just wasn’t worth it. I was not a distinguished student. I was just average. And between the discrimination against women and the quotas against Jews at the time, well, I figured I’d be better off trying to get into medicine through the back door, like forensic medicine, which is what I was thinking of.

“So I worked my way through law school and did very well. When I passed the bar exam, I was happy I skipped medicine. I still have it as a love though. I go to the morgue, buy anatomy books and physiology books and surgery books, and I read up on things medical and psychiatric, so I have a fairly good knowledge of the basics. I’m not going to write any prescriptions for you, but it’s something to fall back on.”

Although she finished very high in her class, Lynne Abraham spent the first year out of school unemployed, going from law office to law office trying to get a job. It was a time, not unlike others, when no one wanted to hire a woman.

“The partners who did the hiring kept telling me how pregnant I was going to get, and how many affairs I’d be having with the other partners, and how many times I’d be all involved with men and I wouldn’t be able to do my work. I got to know the routine. It was sort of a script that they pass around from firm to firm, like there was a gigantic conspiracy.

“There was always the question, ‘Why do you want to be a lawyer? Why don’t you go home and get married and make children? How do I know that you won’t get pregnant?'”

“After a while, I said to hell with all of them and I figured I’d go back to school and get a graduate degree in law and work during the day. The only place that was really hiring women lawyers back then was the federal government. And believe me, I really hated the idea of going to work for the government. It was a haven for all the women lawyers in the whole wide world, because they couldn’t get a job anyplace else. But I had to pay my rent, I had to eat and I wanted to go to school. So I took a job with HUD. And I figured what was I ever going to do with a knowledge of housing and urban development? It’s all fated somehow, you know. Fate writes straight what was a crooked line.

“So I stuck it out for two years, all the time taking courses at Temple. Dick Sprague was teaching one of the courses. In a fit of desperation, I walked up to him and said, ‘Gee I hate the job I’m at. It’s a stupid job. I don’t want to be a fat cat with the government. I want to do something. Is there a job available for me in the district attorney’s office?’ He told me to come and see him. He didn’t give me any of the crap I got from private lawyers. He took me straight to Arlen Specter and they hired me. I had only one condition. I didn’t want them to put me in Juvenile Court. That’s where all the women end up. They agreed. I started in Magistrate’s Court and quickly worked my way into homicide. I guess they just liked my style.”

Both DA Specter and first assistant Sprague hold Lynne Abraham in fond admiration. “She probably prepared her cases better than anyone,” Sprague says of her near-five year stay in his office. “She was never satisfied with the police reports. She’d always reinvestigate the case herself. She’d go to the scene. She’d talk to detectives. She’d find witnesses the police couldn’t find.

“She wouldn’t take any crap from anybody—from the judge, from the defense council, even from me.

“She’s been a big loss here. The job with the Redevel­opment Authority sort of came out of left field. Rizzo asked me what I thought of her. He said he wanted someone absolutely honest, someone who didn’t play games, someone no one could get to. He told me he wanted someone with a great deal of courage. He said many employees were wasted over there. He wanted someone who could chop heads. I told him he’d just given me a perfect description of Lynne Abraham.”

Although she was younger than most of them, Lynne Abraham was a mother to a lot of the people she worked with. She got into the habit of taking doughnuts and pizza to the cops in homicide because they would work 35 or 40 hours in a row, they’d never get home, they’d never shave. And she used to go out on jobs with them, and the next day she’d go to the morgue to see the doctor do the post mortem, and then she’d ask for the case because she was the one who saw it all from start to finish. It’s the way she handled all her cases—she always went to the scene, she always went to the housing projects and dug up the people the cops couldn’t find. She says the cops treated her like one of the guys. They even helped teach her how to shoot.

She’s never had to use her gun, but it was always nice to know it was there. She’d always be driving up to 16th and Jefferson or 30th and York by herself to grab some witness who’d promised to show up in court and then backed down. When she started getting into some really heavy stuff, she started getting some threatening mail. Somebody even came to her apartment and put a letter on the door that had a drawing of a guy holding a shotgun to somebody’s head. Underneath it said, “This is for you.”

She finally gave in. She bought a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson five shot, two-inch, snub-nose revolver. She went to the police pistol range to learn how to use it. She still carries it with her at night. She has to go down to Broad and Columbia a couple evenings a week to teach at Temple and to take a course in condemnation law. You never know. Lynne Abraham has gotten to like the role of Pistol Packin’ Mama. You wouldn’t want to run into her in a dark alley.

FRANK RIZZO ADMIRES that in a man, let alone a woman. Lynne Abraham never had any dealings with Frank Rizzo until about two years ago. She was trying a defendant for the murder of a West Philadelphia druggist. He was found not guilty. There was a conflict in testimony about the gun in question—whether or not it was used to kill the druggist. The police had really botched up the ballistics evidence. Lynne Abraham doesn’t like to lose, especially on somebody else’s error. She was furious. She demanded to see the then-police commissioner, Frank Rizzo.

“I didn’t know him from the man in the moon,” she says, “except at the DA’s Christmas parties he would come up and slap Arlen on the back. So he agreed to see me and I laid it right on the line to him, what I thought about the way the evidence was handled in this case. I wanted to make sure there wasn’t a repeat performance. The cops had really screwed up. And I must admit that I used rather colorful language to explain my feelings to him. He got the message and the situation was corrected promptly. I got up from the meeting, shook his hand and walked out. That was my one and only meeting with him up to that point.”

The people around Rizzo say he was very impressed with that meeting. He thought Lynne Abraham had one of the firmest hands he’d ever shaken. She was hardly out the door before he had his people checking on her. “Wow, how long has this been going on?” he asked. “Where’d we get that broad from?”

Lynne Abraham went back to the DA’s office and continued building her reputation as a hard-nosed prosecutor. And Frank Rizzo kept building his file on Lynne Abraham. The next time she saw him, he was running for mayor. He asked her if she’d like to work on his campaign. She told him she was not a political person, that she was honored by the offer, but that she would not and could not do it because she’d have to give up her job in the DA’s office, and that was much more important to her. She said good‑bye and figured that was that.

Then last summer she was in the middle of a murder case, a young girl who’d blackjacked her mother to death, when the mayor called her up and said he’d like to talk to her.

“He called me into his office and he offered me a job in his administration. I expected that he had in mind some kind of liaison between the DA’s office and the police homicide division, which I was doing then anyway. And he asked if I would like to be head of the Redevelopment Authority. Well, I was aghast. Not because I didn’t think I was equal to the task, but because it was far out in left field. I laughed. He told me he wasn’t joking.

“He asked me if I had any back­ground in redevelopment, and I told him I had been with HUD for two years. And although I wasn’t particularly thrilled with the job, I knew my stuff. He asked me when I could start. I told him I’d have to check around first with people whom I regard as knowing some things about the Redevelopment Authority and then I’d let him know. And the more I found out about the Authority, the more of a personal challenge it was
to me, to do something.

“Now I really don’t know anybody in politics. I’m a Democrat and I just met Pete Camiel for the first time in my life at a funeral. I never met Billy Meehan. It’s really kind of funny. I said to the mayor, ‘You know, I’m not a political person. I don’t know who my ward leader is and I don’t go to my committeeman for problems. I don’t even know who my committeeman is. I couldn’t even tell you what ward or district I live in. I just don’t know. I just don’t care.’ ”

Lynne Abraham told Frank Rizzo she’d take the job only with certain conditions. She wanted carte blanche to do whatever she felt right. She told him she knew the Redevelopment Authority was suffering from terrific problems—mostly corruption. There were local and federal investigations already underway into it.

According to someone who overheard the conversation, she was a little more blunt with the mayor than she admits. “I’m not going to be a bullshitter,” she told him. “You’re surrounded by bullshitters and I’m not going to be one of them.”

After getting the blessings of Arlen Specter and Dick Sprague, she took the job last September.

THE FIRST DAY Lynne Abraham stepped foot on the 11th floor of City Hall Annex, the heads started to roll. Perhaps a little prematurely though, because at least one of them was the wrong head.

There were two men working there with similar names. A report came through that one of them was involved in some wrongdoing. The report had all the facts right, except for the man’s name. Lynne Abraham called the man in and fired him. She couldn’t understand why he protested so much. A short time later, she found out about the mistake, corrected it and eased up a little on the trigger.

Her first few months in office were not without further controversy. When after what was supposed to be a closed-door meeting, one of her assistants gave some information to a reporter, she quickly put out a memo to all 500 people under her instructing them not to make public statements unless checking with her first. Her memo was criticized by the media, this magazine included. It didn’t bother her. It’s her ship. And if she wants to float it on a sea of paper, she will. She loves memos. She loves to have things in writing.

IT IS WHAT YOU would call a typical day in her life. At 7:00 in the morning she meets Esther Sylvester for breakfast. Esther Sylvester is her best friend. They’re the same age. They both made names in the DA’s office. Esther Sylvester is now head of major trials and running for judge.

They talk about everything and they talk about nothing. By 7:30, they’re both in their offices, keeping in touch during the day by a private phone line. Lynne Abraham’s office looks over the north side of City Hall. There’s a sketch of Market Street East on the wall and a photo of a block in Society Hill. The rest of the walls are bare, freshly painted with a gaudy shade of blue. Her black cloth coat lays over one of the chairs next to the closet. The big semicircular desk is an organized mess of papers, letters and plans. There’s a ceramic owl on the desk and a carved wooden bull. Lynne Abraham writes in a hard hand with a red ballpoint pen.

First on the official agenda is a staff meeting about relocation problems in the Washington Square West project. Twelve men and two women are already seated around the long oval table when she walks in the conference room. She’s wearing a gray, double-knit suit. She rarely wears a dress.

The staff is talking about relocating some people whose houses will be condemned. They were planning on putting them up in a place called the Colonial Hotel, but the Colonial is not up to code. Someone reads off a list of the bad conditions and a few people start to laugh.

“You all won’t be laughing so hard when our ass is on the frying pan,” Lynne Abraham says. “Who owns this place, anyway?”

“Leon Segal,” someone says, “and he’s got friends in L&I.”

“I don’t give a damn about his friends. I know Leon. I’ll talk to him. I’ll say listen Leon, get those goddamn things fixed or I’ll punch you in the mouth.”

She leaves the meeting in progress and goes back to her office to talk to some kids who’ve come to see her from Chestnut Hill Academy. They’re making a comparative study of Philadelphia, Florence and Athens. Lynne Abraham starts giving them a combined lesson in history and art appreciation based on her own travels. She tells them not to miss certain things in Philadelphia, like the marble bears in City Hall courtyard or the Joan of Arc statue.

A meeting with City Councilman Joseph Coleman from Germantown follows. The Authority’s legal counsel, Jim Crawford, and two staff members join in. Coleman is playing politics, a game Lynne Abraham doesn’t like. He is threatening, in so many words, to hold up movement of other Authority bills awaiting Council’s okay, unless he’s promised movement on a pet project in his district—the clearance of land for a new library.

Lynne Abraham tells him he can’t do this, that it’s blackmail. Coleman just smiles and says it’s practical politics. Lynne Abraham finds this hard to live with, but she finally gives in a little and gets Coleman’s project on the schedule for the Authority board meeting, where it is eventually to be passed.

She’s finally got some time now to go through the mail that’s piled up over the past few days. She makes some sort of a notation on just about every letter. One of them is on impressive legal stationery. She reads it, makes a funny face and then tosses it away. “That Billy Schwartz is a pain in the ass,” she says, “even if he is George’s son.”

Another letter comes from an inmate at the State Correctional Institution at Graterford. It’s a letter from a guy Lynne Abraham prosecuted. She had him put away for life. On the line on the form where the prisoner is asked to write his relationship to the recipient is the word “friend.”

The guy was sent up in Lynne Abraham’s most famous case as a prosecutor. It involved a murder rap on the son of a prominent Philadelphia judge. (To this day, Bill Stevens, the head of homicide, says that Lynne Abraham’s cross-examination of Jerry Cain was the finest he’s heard from anyone. “She utterly destroyed him,” Stevens says. “She was perfect.”) Nobody had wanted to touch the case at first. They had to bring in an out-of-town judge. It involved a killing at a shooting gallery. Lynne Abraham knew that the guy who’d written the letter was involved. But she also knew he was covering up for the judge’s son. She went to the guy open and honest. She could offer him no deal. “Look,” she said, “for once in your life why don’t you finally do something right.” He listened to her and told the whole story. And they put him away. And now the letter.

In it, he excuses himself for the delay in writing. “I tore up your card on the way here,” he says. “Why? Because it’s not cool coming into any state institution with a card with your name on it. No offense, but you did put a lot of my associates here!

“But you know there’s one thing that’s always fascinated me about you and that is how you understood me and the ghetto language. Maybe that’s another reason why I like you. Because you took the time and really tried to understand me. And did. And then some of the conversations we had were mean. I mean the way we communicated with one another. I never thought I could rap with anyone not coming from my world.

“I heard that you been asking about me. But then you said you would check on me from time to time and I found that you are, as you said, a man of your word.”

LYNNE ABRAHAM ENJOYS living in her past. But she knows she’s got a future to face, and that it’s a rough one. The Redevelopment Authority she inherited has some messy problems and she is doing some pretty heavy housecleaning.

“In the past six months,” she says, “I’ve really effected a lot of changes —from nit-shit stuff to major policy. Legal decisions were being made by people who didn’t have legal backgrounds. I fired about 30 people. I went into good law firms to try to get good people. I hired an entire new legal staff.

“They had a backlog here of some 400 cases. In three weeks, we managed to get rid of at least 10% of them. Now I’m trying to find more appraisers for the properties we buy. There aren’t many appraisers around. It’s kind of a closed shop. That’s why there’s so much room for dipsy­doodling.

“Nobody ever bothered to review contracts with redevelopers. They’d just hand the contracts out and the redevelopers would sit on them for three or four years without doing anything and nobody would say a word. We’ve got to run this thing like we’re running a business.

“Condemnees weren’t bothering to pay rent because they knew nobody was checking. We’re out $346,000 now. And 32 tenants alone owe us $208,000 of it.

“We’re doing an insurance study now. The company that was writing insurance for us was getting a 17 -1/2% commission. They shouldn’t.

“The entire contract system is being redrafted. I’m convinced there was funny business with the bidding. People were allowed to work without contracts before. No more. No more for a lot of things.

“Before he was arrested on the morals charges, Bruce Baldwin was the chairman of the Authority. All the chairman does is preside over the board meetings once a month. But Baldwin had this giant plush office next to mine. What the hell did he need it for? He used to come in an hour before the meetings and use it to make phone calls. That was it. Nobody else was ever allowed in it. I’ve got some of my top people here working in broom closets and he had a goddamn office. Well that was one of the first things I told Len Moak when he took over for Baldwin. ‘Sorry, baby, you already got an office in City Hall.’ Things are changing here, changing fast.”

IT’S DARK OUT already. Everyone else has gone home. Lynne Abraham jots down a few notes for the class she teaches in trial procedure at Temple. She gets $1,400 for that. The executive director job pays her $33,384. Under normal circumstances, this would make her a very eligible single lady. But then little about her is normal.

“I don’t date much anymore,” she says. “First of all, there’s not much time. And then, most guys are just plain afraid of me. You know, head of my own Authority, making all this money, know so much about everything. And I guess I’ve just got this very pushy personality. They’re just afraid. I mean, would you go out with me? Huh? Huh?”

It’s getting late and the lambchops have already defrosted. She’s having her mother over for dinner. “Shit,” she says, “and I’ve got all this work to do.” She zips home and whips up dinner. When it’s finished, she dumps the dishes in the sink, shoves her mother in the car and they drive back to the office. She continues to go through the piles of paper while her mother sleeps on the couch.

She finishes close to midnight. A night watchman wanders by. “You sure you’ll be all right going home?” he asks. “It’s pretty dark and lonely out there, and it’s getting chilly.”

“That’s okay,” Lynne Abraham says, patting the bulge in her blouse, “I’ve got my heater.”

She wakes her mother. They go down the elevator and drive up the Parkway. There is not much sign of life. Everything is very dark. Except for the statue of Joan of Arc, which always shines.

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