Live wire, p.18
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       Live Wire, p.18

         Part #10 of Myron Bolitar series by Harlan Coben
 
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  "But I'm confused," Win said.

  "About?"

  "What possible legitimate business arrangements involve Evan Crisp guarding Wire's house on Adiona Island?"

  Still holding his driver, Ache froze. He handed it back to the caddie and snapped the white glove off his left hand. He moved closer to Win. "Listen to me," he said softly. "This is not a place you and Myron want to interfere. Trust me here. Do you know Crisp?"

  "Only by reputation."

  Ache nodded. "Then you know it won't be worth it."

  Herman gave Win one more hard glare and returned to his caddie. He put his glove back on and asked for his driver. The caddy handed it to him and then headed toward the woods on the left because that was the real estate Herman Ache's golf balls seemed to favor.

  "I have no interest in hurting your business," Win said. "I have no interest in Gabriel Wire, for that matter."

  "So what do you want here?"

  "I want to know about Suzze T. I want to know about Alista Snow. I want to know about Kitty Bolitar."

  "I don't know what you're talking about."

  "Would you like to hear my theory?"

  "About?"

  "Let's go back sixteen years," Win said. "Gabriel Wire owes you a substantial sum of money for gambling debts. He's a drug addict, a pleated-skirt chaser--"

  "Pleated?"

  "He likes them young," Win explained.

  "Oh. Now I get it. Pleated."

  "So glad. Gabriel Wire is also--more important to you--a compulsive gambler. In short, he's a mess, albeit a profitable one. He has money and tremendous earning potential, ergo the interest owed keeps compounding. Are you with me?"

  Herman Ache said nothing.

  "Then Wire goes too far. After a concert at Madison Square Garden, he invites Alista Snow, a naive sixteen-year-old girl, back to his suite. Wire slips her Rohypnol and cocaine and whatever other drugs he has lying around, and the girl ends up leaping off a balcony. He panics. Or perhaps, being that he is such an important asset, you already have a man on the scene. Perhaps Crisp. You clean up the mess. You intimidate the witnesses and even buy off the Snow family--whatever it takes to protect your boy. He owes you even bigger now. I don't know what 'legitimate business arrangement' you made, but I imagine Wire has to pay you, what, half his earnings? That would be several million dollars per year minimum."

  Herman Ache just looked at him, trying very hard not to fume. "Win?"

  "Yes?"

  "I know you and Myron like to think you're tough guys," Ache said, "but neither one of you is bulletproof."

  "Tsk-tsk." Win spread his arms. "What happened to Mr. Legal? Mr. Legitimate Businessman?"

  "You've been warned."

  "By the way, I visited your brother in prison."

  Herman's face fell.

  "He sends his regards."

  22

  Back at the office, Big Cyndi was at the ready.

  "I have some information on Gabriel Wire's tattoo, Mr. Bolitar."

  "Let's hear it."

  Big Cyndi wore all pink today with enough blush on her cheeks to coat a minivan. "According to Ma Gellan's extensive research, Gabriel Wire had one tattoo. It was on his left thigh, not his right. This may sound a little strange, so please bear with me."

  "I'm listening."

  "The tattoo was a heart. That tattoo itself was permanent. But what Gabriel Wire would do is fill in a name temporarily."

  "I'm not sure I follow."

  "You have seen what Gabriel Wire looks like, correct?"

  "Yes."

  "He was a rock star and an absolute major yummy, but he had a certain predilection."

  "That being?"

  "He liked underage girls."

  "He was a pedophile?"

  "No, I don't believe so. His targets were fully developed. But they were young. Sixteen, seventeen."

  Alista Snow, for example. And now that he thought about it, Suzze T, back in those days.

  "So even though Gabriel Wire was a tasty rock star, he often needed to convince a girl that she meant something to him."

  "I'm not sure how the tattoos fit in."

  "It was a red heart."

  "So?"

  "So it was plain inside. Just red. Gabriel Wire would then take a Sharpie and write in the name of the girl he was pursuing. He would pretend that he had gotten the tattoo especially for that particular girl."

  "Wow."

  "Yes."

  "Talk about diabolical."

  Big Cyndi sighed. "You wouldn't believe the things men will do to land some of us hotties."

  Myron tried to process this. "How did it work exactly?"

  "It would depend. If Gabriel wanted to close the sale immediately, he would actually take the girl to a tattoo parlor that night. He would tell her he was going to the back room and to wait for him. Then he'd draw in the name. Sometimes he would do it before a second date."

  "Sort of, say, 'I care about you so much, look, I got a tattoo with your name on it'?"

  "Precisely."

  Myron shook his head.

  "You have to admit," Big Cyndi said, "it is sort of genius."

  "More like sick."

  "Oh, I believe that was part of it," Big Cyndi said. "Gabriel Wire could have any girl he wants--even young ones. So I ask myself, why would he go to all that trouble? Why not just move on to the next girl?"

  "And?"

  "And I think, like many men, he needed the girl to truly fall for him. He liked them young. So my guess is he was developmentally stunted, stuck in that stage when a boy gets off breaking a girl's heart. Like in high school."

  "Could be."

  "It's just a theory," Big Cyndi said.

  "Okay, this is all interesting, but what does this have to do with the other tattoo--the one that Suzze had too?"

  "The design appears to be original artwork of some kind," Big Cyndi said. "So Ma Gellan theorized that Suzze and Gabriel became lovers. Suzze got the tattoo and--to impress or fool her--Gabriel got one too."

  "So it was temporary?"

  "There's no way to know for certain," Big Cyndi said, "but it is certainly, based on his past, a strong possibility."

  Esperanza was standing in the doorway. Myron looked over at her. "Thoughts?"

  "Just the obvious," Esperanza said. "Suzze and Gabriel were lovers. Someone posts a tattoo that both of them wore with a message about the paternity of her child."

  "Kitty admitted that she posted it," Myron said.

  "That might add up," Esperanza said.

  "Why's that?"

  The office phone rang. Big Cyndi moved back to her desk and put on her sugary-sweet voice. "MB Reps." She listened a moment and shook her head at them, pointing to herself: She could handle it.

  Esperanza signaled Myron to follow her into her office. "I got Suzze's mobile phone records."

  On television, they make getting phone records seem difficult or, for the purposes of the plot, that it takes days or weeks. In truth, it could be done in minutes. In this case, it would take even less. Suzze, like many of MB Rep's clients, had set up all her bill paying via MB Reps. That meant that they had her phone number, her address, her passcodes, her social security number. Esperanza was able to get the calls online as though it were her own phone.

  "Her final call was to Lex's cell, but he didn't pick up. I think that he may have been on the plane flying back. But Lex had called her earlier in the day. Right after that--this is the morning before Suzze died--she also called an untraceable disposable mobile. My guess is, the police will believe that she was calling her drug dealer to set up a buy."

  "But that wasn't the case?"

  Esperanza shook her head. "The number matches the one ol' Crush gave you for Kitty."

  "Whoa."

  "Yes," Esperanza said. "And maybe that's how Suzze got the drugs."

  "From Kitty?"

  "Yep."

  Myron shook his head. "I still don't believe it."

  "What don't you believe
?"

  "Suzze. You saw her in here. She was pregnant. She was happy."

  Esperanza sat back and looked at him for several beats. "Do you remember when Suzze won the US Open?"

  "Of course. What does that have to do with anything?"

  "She'd cleaned up her act. She focused solely on her tennis, and bam, right away, Suzze wins a major. I never saw someone want something so badly. I can still see that final cross-court forehand to win, the look of pure undiluted joy on her face, the way she threw her racket up in the air and turned and pointed at you."

  "At us," Myron said.

  "Don't patronize me, please. You've always been her agent and her friend, but you can't be blind here. I want you to think what happened next."

  Myron tried to remember. "We had a huge party. Suzze brought the trophy with her. We drank out of it."

  "And then?"

  Myron nodded, seeing where Esperanza was going. "She crashed."

  "Big-time."

  Four days after the biggest victory of her career--after appearing on the Today show, Late Show with David Letterman, and a bunch of other high-profile venues--Myron found Suzze crying, still in bed at two in the afternoon. They say that there is nothing worse than having a dream come true. Suzze had thought the US Open trophy would bring her instant happiness. She thought her breakfast would taste better in the morning, the sun would feel better on her skin, that she'd look in the mirror and see someone more attractive, smarter, more worthy of love.

  She thought that winning would change her.

  "Just when things were at their best for her," Esperanza said, "she started using again."

  "And you think that's what happened here?"

  Esperanza raised one weighing hand, then the other. "Happiness, crash. Happiness, crash."

  "And her visit to Karl Snow after all the years? Do you think that's a coincidence?"

  "Nope. But I think he brought up a lot of emotion. That plays for her using, not against. Meanwhile I checked the addresses you gave me from Suzze's GPS. The first, well, you figured that one out--Karl Snow's ice cream parlor. The rest are all easy to explain, except I don't have a clue about that second one."

  "The intersection in Edison, New Jersey?" Then: "Wait. Didn't you say Kitty's disposable phone was purchased at T-Mobile in Edison?"

  "Right." Esperanza brought something up on the computer. "Here's the Google Earth satellite picture."

  Myron looked. A ShopRite. A Best Buy. A bunch of stores. A gas station.

  "No T-Mobile," Esperanza said.

  But, Myron thought, worth a drive anyway.

  23

  Myron's car Bluetooth picked up his cell phone. He spent the first half hour on the phone with clients. Life doesn't stop for death. If you ever need proof of that, head back to work.

  A few minutes before arriving, Win called.

  "Are you armed?" Win asked.

  "I assume you upset Herman Ache."

  "I did."

  "So he's involved with Gabriel Wire?"

  "It would seem so, yes, except for one thing."

  "What's that?" Myron asked.

  "I presented him with our theory about them controlling Wire via blackmail and gambling debts."

  "Right."

  "After several minutes," Win said, "Mr. Ache finally admitted that our theory was correct."

  "Which means?"

  "Herman Ache would lie about what he ate for lunch," Win said.

  "So we're missing something."

  "Yes. In the meantime, arm yourself."

  "I'll pick up a gun when I get back," Myron said.

  "No need to wait. There is a thirty-eight under your seat."

  Terrific. Myron reached under his seat, felt the bump. "Anything else I need to know?"

  "I birdied the last hole. Shot two under par for the round."

  "Talk about burying the lead."

  "I was trying to be modest."

  "I think," Myron said, "that at some point, we will need to talk to Gabriel Wire face-to-face."

  "That might mean storming the castle," Win said. "Or at least his estate on Adiona Island."

  "Think we can get through his security?"

  "I'll pretend you didn't ask that."

  When Myron arrived at the intersection in Edison, he parked in the lot of yet another strip mall. He looked to see whether there was an ice cream parlor in this one--he'd start there this time if that was the case--but no, this one was somewhat more generic, Strip Mall USA, featuring a Best Buy, a Staples, and a shoe store called DSW that had the approximate square footage of a small European principality.

  So why here?

  He worked out yesterday's timeline in his head. First Suzze received a phone call from her husband Lex Ryder. The call lasted forty-seven minutes. Thirty minutes after hanging up, Suzze placed a call to Kitty's disposable cell phone. That call was shorter--four minutes. Okay, fine, what next? There was a time gap now, but four hours later, Suzze confronted Karl Snow at his ice cream parlor about the death of his daughter Alista Snow.

  So he needed to try to fill in the four hours.

  Following the logic of the GPS, sometime between Suzze's four-minute phone call with Kitty and Suzze's visit to Karl Snow, she had driven down here, to this intersection in Edison, New Jersey. Suzze hadn't put an actual address into the GPS, like she did with Karl Snow's mall. She had just put this intersection. There was a strip mall on one corner. A gas station on another. An Audi dealer on the third. Nothing but woods on the fourth.

  So why? Why not put a real address?

  Clue One: Suzze had come here right after calling Kitty. Considering their rather long and complicated relationship, a four-minute call seemed awfully brief. Possible conclusion: Suzze and Kitty had talked just long enough to set up a meet. Second possible conclusion: They'd agreed to meet here, at this intersection.

  Myron looked for a restaurant or coffee shop, but there were none. It seemed highly unlikely that the two former tennis greats had decided to buy shoes or office supplies or electronics, so that ruled out the rest of one corner. He glanced down the road on the left and then the right. And there, past the Audi dealer, Myron spotted an ornate sign that caught his attention. The lettering was done in an Old English font and read: LENDALE MOBILE ESTATES.

  It was, Myron saw after crossing the road, a trailer park. Even trailer parks had gone the way of Madison Avenue and spin doctors, what with the fancy sign and use of the word "estates" as though it were a beloved stop on an elite house tour in Newport, Rhode Island. The trailers were laid out along a grid of roads with names like Garden Mews and Old Oak Drive, though there seemed to be no indication of either a garden or an oak, old or not, and Myron was not sure what a mews was.

  Even from his spot on the road, Myron could see several For Rent signs. New conclusion: Kitty and Mickey were staying here. Maybe Suzze didn't know the exact address. Maybe a GPS wouldn't recognize Garden Mews or Old Oaks Drive, so she'd given Suzze the closest intersection.

  He didn't have a photograph of Kitty to show around, and even if he did, that would just be too suspicious. He couldn't stop and knock on trailer doors either. In the end, Myron opted for a good old-fashioned stakeout. He got back in his car and parked near the manager's office, giving him a pretty good view of most of the trailers. So how long could he park here and wait? An hour, maybe two. He called his old friend Zorra, a former Mossad agent who was always game for a stakeout. Zorra would head down and take over in two hours.

  Myron settled in, used the time to make calls to his clients. Chaz Landreaux, his oldest NBA player and a former All-Star, was hoping to scratch out another year in the pros. Myron kept calling general managers, trying to get the popular veteran a tryout, but there was no interest. Chaz was heartbroken. "I just can't let go yet," he told Myron. "You know what I mean?"

  Myron did. "Keep working out," Myron said. "Someone will give you a chance."

  "Thanks, man. I know I can help a young team."

  "I know it to
o. Let me ask you something else. Worst-case scenario. If the NBA isn't in the cards, how would you feel about playing a year in China or Europe?"

  "I don't think so."

  Looking out his front windshield, Myron spotted a trailer door open. This time, however, his nephew, Mickey, came out. Myron sat up. "Chaz, I'll keep working on it. Let's talk tomorrow."

  He hung up. Mickey still held the door open. He looked back inside the trailer for a moment before letting the door shut. He was, as Myron had noted last night, a big kid, six-four, and weighing around two-ten. Mickey walked with his shoulders back, his head high. It was, Myron realized, the Bolitar walk. Myron's father walked like that. Brad walked like that. And Myron too.

  You can't escape your genes, kid.

  Now what?

  There was, he guessed, a slight chance that Suzze had spoken or met with Mickey. But really that seemed unlikely. Better to stay here. Better to wait until Mickey was gone and then approach the trailer, hoping Kitty was still inside. If not, if Kitty wasn't there and he needed to track down Mickey, that wouldn't be difficult. Mickey wore a red Staples employee polo. It was safe to assume that Mickey was heading to work.

  Did Staples hire employees that young?

  Myron wasn't sure. He pulled down the visor. He knew that the sun's reflection would make it impossible for Mickey to spot him. As his nephew came closer, Myron could make out the name tag on his shirt. It read: BOB.

  Stranger and stranger.

  He waited until Mickey turned toward the intersection before getting out of his car. He walked toward the highway and took a quick look. Yep, Mickey was heading to the Staples. Myron turned back and headed down Garden Mews. The park was clean and well kept. There were lawn chairs in front of some trailers. Others had plastic daisies or those pinwheel decorations stuck into the ground. Chimes blew in the wind. There was also a wide variety of lawn ornaments, the Madonna being far and away the most popular.

  Myron reached the door and knocked. No answer. He knocked harder. Still nothing. He tried to peer into a window, but the shades were pulled. He circled the trailer. Every window shade was down in the middle of the day. He moved back to the door and tried the knob. Locked.

  The lock was a spring latch, probably not new. Myron wasn't an expert on breaking in, but the truth is, "loiding" an old spring-latch lock was pretty easy. Myron made sure no one was looking. Years ago, Win had taught him how to break in with a thinner-than-credit-card card. The card had sat dormant in his wallet, always there but unused, like an adolescent carrying a condom but without the hope. He took it out now, made sure no one was looking, and slid the card into the door frame, getting between the latch tongue to depress it and thus unlock the door. If the trailer door had a dead bolt or a dead latch or even a dead locking plunger, this would all be for naught. Luckily the lock was cheap and flimsy.

 
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