stare at Shimmy for a moment. I feel a lot of anger, but what’s done is done. Now we have to try and find a solution.

“Give me a minute to find my mother so she can take Yael.” I leave Shimmy in my room and start searching for Ima. After checking all the rooms I hear her voice at last.

“I’m here, Meir.”

Yael perks up at the sound of our mother’s voice. She quickly wriggles out of my arms and runs to the door leading out to the roof, straight into Ima’s arms.

“What are you doing out here in the dark?”

I am baffled to find my mother outside. In the summertime the roof is a very pleasant place to entertain guests, but tonight it’s chilly and windy. Ima comes inside, Abba right behind her. That’s so strange. If they just wanted to sit outside and talk, why were the lights turned off?

“Hello sweetie!” Ima scoops up Yael with a hug and announces, “It’s time for your bath!” Her voice sounds cheerful, but I see the worry lines on her face and wonder what’s wrong. She hurries away from me, almost as if she’s trying to hide something. That’s really strange.

“Is your friend still here?” Abba pauses as he passes me in the hall.

I blink and focus on my father. “Yes, but he’s leaving soon.”

“You may ask him if he wants to eat supper with us. There’s plenty.”

“Um, right.” What makes him think that Shimmy Gutman is my friend? My feelings about that assumption are very mixed. I try to imagine what my father would say if he knew about Tzion and Zalman.

I go back to my room. “You want to eat supper with us?” I ask half-heartedly, angling for a refusal.

“Weiss, you can’t tell the police!” Shimmy declares, totally ignoring my invitation. “Tzion and his men are really scary. If they ever guessed that you know about them, my life is not worth a penny. Probably Zalman’s as well. Maybe even yours. Finished, do you understand? I’m serious!”

My heart does a kind of flip-flop. “What do you mean, Tzion and ‘his men’?” I ask, stalling for time. “Which men?”

“Guys like me. Tzion finds them on the beach, or at the mall, or at the central bus station. He looks out for teenagers who seem alone and offers them money. He reminds me of a fisherman. Money is his bait, but by the time you figure out there’s a hook hidden inside, it’s too late.”

I shudder. I feel sorry for Shimon Gutman, though he should have had more sense than to get involved. Zalman, on the other hand, is an innocent victim. What on earth can I do to get Zalman out of the evil clutches of that wicked Tzion?

“I gotta go,” Shimmy says abruptly. He moves to the door of my bedroom. His shoulders are slumped. He looks discouraged.

“Give me some time,” I tell him. “I’ll try to think of a plan.”

He raises his eyes slowly until they burn into mine. “Meanwhile, don’t say a single word!” he commands. “Not to anyone in the world!” (Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 710)