By Louis Fink
I often wonder about what happened to old friends or acquaintances. What was their story? What kind of hand were they dealt? Was life good and fair for them?
The year 1953 was a memorable one: Queen Elizabeth was crowned; The Korean War ended, with an armistice signed at Panmunjom; the Brooklyn Dodgers lost the World Series to the Yankees in the sixth game, with a score of 4-3; and we began school at Montauk Junior High (P.S. 223) in the Boro Park section of Brooklyn, New York.
Summer was fast fading but the leaves on the trees were still green as we lined up in the schoolyard behind the three-story red brick building at 16th and 42nd St. The concrete yard was bounded by a steel chain-link fence on the sides and a rear wall of cement that was used for the handball courts. Behind a cardboard sign that read “7SP1” and hung atop a wooden pole, a double line of adolescent boys and girls ranging from 4’5″ to 6’0″ was formed. Our class was one of almost 70. After the alarm bell, we marched up the stairs to room 327 on the third floor. The homeroom teacher, Mr. Hecht, was a short man appearing fortyish with thinning reddish hair, a wide smile, and a moderately protuberant abdomen. He always wore a short sleeved white Dacron shirt and a solid blue tie. When he wore his worsted jacket, he had a Purple Heart medal pinned over the left breast pocket. He told us that he earned this at the Battle of the Bulge during WWII. But I heard him tell Madame Mass our French teacher that he wore it for lasting six years with tough teenage kids.
Mr. Hecht assigned us alphabetically into rows of wooden seats with desks. Our class of 27 didn’t quite fill the six columns of six seats. This was 7SP1, the Special Progress class. We were from the surrounding area elementary schools, chosen by standardized test scores to complete the seventh, eighth, and ninth grades in two rather than three years. For the next two years, I was to sit behind Linda Finestein and stare at her dark brown hair done up either in braids or a ponytail.
For two years, Linda was like my shadow. I was paired to dance with her in gym. I occasionally got to go in the closet with her after a spin-the-bottle game at an after-school party. The kiss was like the peck your mother gave you when she left for work. Since Linda’s mother and my father taught the sixth grade in the same P.S. 201, every time I misbehaved, Linda would tell her mother who would inform my father.
Once on the way home from school, the gorilla-like Arnold Horowitz attempted to pummel my head on the sidewalk because I did not give him my seat on the McDonald Avenue trolley. Linda who was enjoying watching me get the shit kicked out of me wound up her leather pocketbook like a one-handed knight’s ball and chain. She hit Arnold with a blow that would have been worthy of Sir Lancelot’s admiration. I felt like she saved my life. Somewhere within this petite teen, there was brawn as well as brains. She was one tough cookie. Everyone in 7-9 SP1 knew that there was something different and special about Linda.
She could play the piano like a virtuoso, recite the poetry of Virgil, hit a tennis ball onto the roof of a six-story apartment building, speak French like a Parisian and even once gave Bobby Fisher a battle at chess. It was said that standardized tests were not capable of measuring her intelligence. A few years later at Midwood H.S., she would win a Merit Scholarship and a Westinghouse Science Scholarship for studies on the ecological impact of cyanobacteria. She was accepted to Radcliffe in Cambridge with advanced standing.
I saw Linda around 1963, walking down Avenue 1 in Brooklyn near where we grew up, arm in arm with some guy. I hardly recognized her. She had her nose done to give it a little ski slope jump instead of the narrow hook she was born with. She was heavily rouged with long eyelashes and had apparently chucked the eyeglass spectacles for contact lenses. Her form fitting red cardigan, which matched her lipstick, showed a now full breasted young woman. Her pleated kilt-like miniskirt and fishnet stockings showed her curvaceous calves and thighs that were accentuated by her spiked red suede high heel pumps. She had certainly graduated from high school.
As I passed by, I blew a low toned wolf whistle of admiration, but she was too preoccupied to see or recognize me.
Other than making a few of her professors, including some Nobelists, drool, Linda found undergraduate school unstimulating. She ran off with the Assistant Director of the Boston Symphony to Dallas and enjoyed music until the Dean and her mother begged and pleaded for her to return and finish her undergraduate degree.
For lack of anything better to do, Linda went to medical school at V….University. The memorization was trivial for her photographic recall. She concomitantly enrolled in a Ph.D. program and worked with an advisor who was later to win the Nobel prize in medicine for his laboratory study on how growth factors caused cells to divide. Linda completed her M.D. with honors but needed to complete several experiments before the Doctorate in Philosophy would be granted when she left with her fiancée to start a residency in Pathology at U of M….
Burt Malley was a statuesque male who supported his way through dental school as a male model and by receiving generous gifts from women. Something was different about his attraction to Linda. She used her intellect to hone her feminine guile and was able to captivate Burt physically, emotionally, and intellectually. Within six months he proposed to her, and she accepted.
We met again at the U of M…. where I was an Assistant Professor of Pathology. The Chairman called me in and told me to help a new first-year resident Linda Malley complete her experiments for her Ph.D., a favor that had been requested by the Chairman at her previous institution. When Linda Finestein appeared in my laboratory, I was surprised. However, I was glad to see her again. For two years, I helped her label growth hormones and track their locations in cells. She completed her thesis and received her doctorate.
During the remaining time, Linda completed her five years of training in Pathology. She went on to study transfusion medicine and became an expert in plasmapheresis. She became the expert on treating a variety of blood and bleeding disorders. She established a mobile unit that could be moved around to the different hospitals and was on call 24/7. She became pregnant and lost the baby at six months gestation. It was at this time that she decided to incorporate her practice and take on a partner. She interviewed several candidates but chose Mitchell Naught because he had shown that he could handle the legal and financial aspects of running a practice as a business.
Mitchell had been a co-resident with Linda at the U of M…. There was no missing him in a crowd. He had a round, plethoric, and ruddy complexion with wavy, reddish-blond hair, and blue eyes. He had a coarse, raspy, and deep voice. His most distinctive feature was that he was 5’10” and weighed almost 350 pounds. When he walked, he almost looked like a bowling pin and waddled his way around. Mitchell agreed to the partnership and agreed to kick in $500,000 as his share of the startup funds for the joint venture.
After the failed pregnancy, Linda became depressed. She bought Burt a new white T- Bird convertible. One day she noticed that there were cigarette butts in the ashtray that had a pink shade of lipstick different from any Linda owned. He was also working much later and on weekends. Linda became suspicious and she followed Burt one evening. He went to a large mansion in the Hilltop area of the city. When he left after several hours, he was tucking his shirt into his pants. Linda made note of the address and looked up the listing for the owner. She decided to do nothing for a while and then hired a private detective to follow Burt. She found that the house belonged to one of the prominent transplant surgeons, Dr. Stal, who was away on sabbatical in Australia. His wife and children had stayed at home. It became obvious that Burt and she had established a relationship.
Linda was seething. She confronted Burt the next week with photos of his trysts. Insults and vulgar profanities were exchanged along with derisions of each other’s sexuality. When Burt pulled down a suitcase and began to pack his belongings, Linda became violent. She threw everything that she could pick up at Burt. She put a three inch gash in Burt’s forehead with a plaque she had received for her research accomplishments. She hurled it at him as if she was Discobolos, the Greek discus thrower. Finally, the sounds of broken glass splintering and the uproar of the commotion caused the neighbors across the street to call the police. They came and escorted Burt away from the premises.
The last Linda saw of Burt was in the divorce courtroom where he was demanding that Linda pay him alimony because she made more money.
The scar on Linda’s psyche seemed to be much deeper than the one on Burt’s head. For weeks, she stalked Mrs. Stal but a restraining order put an end to that.
Linda tried to focus on her medical practice and business but her internal fury made that difficult. In an attempt to find some peace and distraction, Linda found a tavern called the Blue Spot several miles from her house. For several nights she sat in a booth and watched the NHL games on TV or the regular patrons shooting pool. One evening one of the regulars introduced himself to her.
His name was William (Bill) Doit. He was about six feet tall with long black hair tied into a ponytail. His narrow face was bordered by sideburns extending to the tip of his earlobes. The irises of his eyes were deep brown. His aquiline nose was bent slightly to the left. Both earlobes were pierced with a single gold stud. He wore denim jeans over black leather boots and a white tee shirt decorated with a large eagle head. His arms and face had a leather tan. His overall physique was that of an early middle-age muscular male.
An old jukebox was in the corner and Bill fed it some quarters. The first was Paul Anka singing “Put Your Head on My Shoulder.” He extended his hand to Linda and asked her to dance. They slow danced for hours only stopping to pick out more oldies. Linda held on tightly. At closing time Bill took Linda outside to his Harley cycle. He gave her a helmet and they flew off to the mountains on dark roads with only a half moon and galaxies of stars to light the sky.
Bill told Linda of his futile attempt to study philosophy at Berkeley. He was now the leader of a motorcycle club called Sons of Restitution and eked out a living selling secondhand auto parts. In a short while, Bill and Linda were lovers living together. He doted on her supreme intellect, and she loved his caresses and suave sex.
Linda was spending a lot of time on her relationship with Bill. She neglected to appear at the Bank of America for the signing of an application for a loan to buy equipment for the new company that she had formed with Mitchell. ln addition, she had been forced to move from her townhouse because as a single wage earner she could no longer afford the rent. Also, the HOA (homeowners association) had assessed several fines relating to the excessive noise and air pollution, particularly those coming from Bill’s motorcycle whose loud staccato muffler and coal black exhaust perturbed the peaceful community. There were extensive costs for the apartment wreckage she had created during the break with her ex-husband, Burt, and the exorbitant legal costs of the divorce.
By now her partner Mitchell was fed up with her inability to initiate the new company, and he withdrew his half million dollars investment. He also decided to relocate to Upstate New York.
Because of Mitchell’s reneging on his investment, Linda faced huge losses and plunged into extreme debt.
When Linda told Bill of the impending cataclysm, he told her that he had a plan that would rectify the situation. He would use his contacts through the Sons of Restitution to hire a debt collector in Connecticut who would fly to Canada and go to Buffalo. He was supplied with a stolen pistol which was disassembled and hidden in his luggage. The collector would cross into the U.S. at Niagara and rent a van. He and two associates from the Sons of Restitution would locate and capture Mitchell. They would have papers that they would force Mitchell to sign. These would transfer funds to a Cayman Islands bank account and would force him to pay his share of the bankruptcy costs. They even had a sample of Mitchell’s handwriting to check that all the signatures were appropriately endorsed.
When the enforcing contractors kidnapped Mitchell, it was joked that they enticed him into the van with a trail of glazed donuts. They put him in the van, and, while pointing a pistol at his head, they forced him to sign the documents. Unfortunately for the kidnappers Mitchell escaped. It was later joked that they let him go because they could not afford to feed him.
Mitchell flagged down a ride and went to the FBI in Buffalo. Before the kidnappers could return from their activity in Buffalo they were captured and arrested. They tried to void the charges by saying that the FBI obtained an illegal search warrant to obtain evidence.
The group was tried in the Chicago Federal Court. Bill and Linda were convicted for initiating, aiding, and abetting in the armed kidnapping of Mitchell and for extortion.
During this time, I was asked by my chairman to provide gainful employment for Linda so that she could remain out on bail until the sentencing. She came to work each day and was sentenced to the federal penitentiary at Rockville for five years.
It has been 29 years since Linda was released from prison and it is through the Internet that I have found out what has become of her.
She has irrevocably been stripped of her medical license to practice medicine. I tracked her to a small tavern in Bisalt, Colorado called Linda’s Lounge where she is the owner and barmaid. She bought the bar with a small inheritance from the sale of her mother’s condo in Brooklyn where she died of a broken heart.
Bill sits on a stool at the corner of the bar as she serves draft beers to the over-the-hill members of the Sons of Retribution. Sometimes she lets her arthritic fingers play some Chopin’s Piano Sonatas, on the upright next to the old jukebox.
Linda still has silky brown-grey hair and a pretty face. Her body has several jailhouse tattoos and scars. She is somewhat emaciated.
Linda is one of many friends, with so many talents and on so many roads.
Louis M Fink, M.D., is a retired Professor of Pathology. He spent his professional career at several institutions including 17 years at UAMS. He has published a novel entitled Lost and Found and a collection of poems called Dreaming. Lovely Linda is from a book of short stories he is writing.