Murder on Skid Row: Charlene Wexler
Take a trip back in time to when Chicago was riddled with drug lords, gangs, addicts and two men that owned a pharmacy hoping to help their clients but not in the way you would think. The best intentions go unnoticed and even when you are trying to make a difference in the lives of some that feel betrayed, alone or have given up, you just might fail in some respects and not in others. Mel Greenberg is young, idealistic and has decided against his parents and fiancé’s wishes to open up his first dental practice in the area called Chicago Skid Row. Not the best or safest neighborhood for anyone. The characters that live within this area are quite colorful. Abe and Dave own a pharmacy. Abe is a well-liked pharmacist who has his hand and money in many different pots you might say and has his own way of dealing with the drug addicts, gang members and call girls or prostitutes. Part of his one year rent free lease is agreeing to write scripts for medicine and directing his patients who are on skid row for a reason and many hooked on drugs to Abe to fill the script in his own special way. His Dad spent his whole life trying to get out of the old neighborhood but for some reason Mel finds it attractive, alluring and yet thinking he might fulfill his own American dream. But, not all dreams turn out happy and some might be considered nightmares after a while as we enter his new office, small yet functional, see the special cabinet he could not resist, and realize that this office is not state of the art but yet for Mel it was home.
Abe and Dave owned the pharmacy. Dave was always in the back doing the books and paperwork while Abe did the rest. Dealing with the addicts, the gang members and Phil, the other man who rented an office down the hall from Mel, was not easy yet Abe seemed more then connected to the right and wrong people. Things seemed okay for a while as Mel hired Darlene, a hooker off the street to be his receptionist but along with her came Tyrone and his Spider. Both were dangerous and both needed to be watched every time they entered his office. Tyrone was supposed to be his bodyguard but we soon realize he is using this position to get what he needs to pay off the dealers who supply him and want his money. Darlene learns fast, great with the clients but is often not too bright when it comes to her relationship with Tyrone. Hoping to keep Mel from seeing what Tyrone is really like he reacts when Tyrone is rough with her and cannot understand why she remains. But, things change after a few months and shady dealings, poker games with the guys in the area, Leo the man who owns the pawnshop and Alderman Johnson hoping to move up in politics all play a role in what is about to happen next. The prologue sets the stage for the murders to come as we meet Mel talking to the Detective in charge as someone decided to kill Dave and the rest gets even worse. Mel’s office if broken into by Spider and Tyrone taking his money, drugs and other things that they can sell easily. But, when they physically attack Mel, and Darlene saves his life in a unique way, you begin to wonder why he is remaining here and if he will finally give in to what his parents want and his future wife: to leave Skid Row and move his office somewhere closer to home and safe. But, Mel won’t give up on his clients yet someone decided to blow up the office of Dr. Roy on the opposite side of the street and then they went after Abe. As Mel starts to realize the gravity of the situation he is attacked, tied up, rob and left by the people that he tried to help. Added in he allowed two dentists to work in his office while he worked uptown two days a week. On scared the patients and got high on laughing gas, the other was just plain dangerous. Dr. Roy’s office and building were burned down and Abe was not happy to have him there but it was not for long. So, who decided to off both Dave and Abe? Who paid someone to kill him and why? While the police gathered evidence we learn of the death of someone else whose family could care less and when Mel asked about the funeral arrangements he was told to not discuss it, they wanted it private and the situation about their son was an embarrassment. Even with Mel trying to help him better himself Jim Bones lost a long and hard fight and his own family could care less. But, things got worse as more prostitutes were hurt; murders were on the docket and when the suspects were finally arrested why did the police think Mel was part of the plot? Questioning him, learning more about Dr. Roy and Tyrone would they confess to the murders and tell who really was working the ropes and controlling the action. But, Mel finally decides to give it all up and moves his office somewhere else and marries Cindy. The ending is quite compelling as we meet him many years later as an older man coming back to the old neighborhood for his granddaughter’s office opening. Just what went through his mind when he returned? Was he ever sorry that he left Skid Row? What about it remained the same and what was different? This is a story about hope, understanding, change, chances, family loyalty, friendship, trust, betrayal, deceit, murder and choices as once again author Charlene Wexler takes us deep inside the heart, mind and soul of her main character Mel Greenberg to understand that it is not always about money and fame sometimes it’s about PEOPLE!
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ Magazine