Live wire, p.2
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       Live Wire, p.2

         Part #10 of Myron Bolitar series by Harlan Coben

  "Come on. Typing 'Not his'? That's pretty sick."

  "A sick neutered crank. Do you ever read the nonsense on this Internet? Go to any news story anywhere and look at the racist, homophobic, paranoid 'comments.' " He made quote marks with his fingers. "It will make you howl at the moon."

  "I know, but I promised I'd look into it."

  Win sighed, put the glasses back on, leaned toward the screen. "The person who posted it is one Abeona S. Is it safe to assume that's a pseudonym?"

  "Yep. Abeona is the name of a Roman goddess. No idea what the S stands for."

  "And what about the profile photograph? What's this symbol?"

  "I don't know."

  "You asked Suzze?"

  "Yep. She said she had no idea. It looks almost like Chinese lettering."

  "Perhaps we can find someone to translate it." Win sat back and re-steepled the fingers. "Did you notice the time the comment was posted?"

  Myron nodded. "Three seventeen A.M."

  "Awfully late."

  "That's what I was thinking," Myron said. "This could just be the social-networking equivalent of drunk texting."

  "An ex with issues," Win said.

  "Is there any other kind?"

  "And if I recall Suzze's rambunctious youth, there could be--conservatively speaking--several candidates."

  "But none that she imagines doing something like this."

  Win continued to stare at the screen. "So what's our first step?"



  Myron moved around his renovated office. Gone were the posters of Broadway plays and Batman memorabilia. They'd been taken down during the paint job, and Myron wasn't really sure if he wanted to put them back up. Gone too were all his old trophies and awards from his playing days--his NCAA championship rings, his Parade All-American certificates, his College Player of the Year award--with one exception. Right before his first professional game as a Boston Celtic, as his dream was finally coming true, Myron had seriously injured his knee. Sports Illustrated put him on the cover with the tagline, IS HE DONE? and while they don't answer the question, it ended up being a big fat YUP! Why he kept the framed cover up he wasn't quite sure. If asked, he said that it was a warning to any "superstar" entering his office how quickly it can all go away, but Myron somehow suspected it went deeper than that.

  "That's not your usual modus operandi," Myron said.

  "Oh, do tell."

  "This is usually the part where you tell me that I'm an agent, not a private eye, and that you don't see any purpose in doing this because there is no financial benefit to the firm."

  Win said nothing.

  "Then you usually complain that I have a hero complex and always need to rescue someone in order to feel complete. And lastly--or I should say, most recently--you tell me how my interfering has actually done more harm than good, that I've ended up hurting and even killing maybe more than I've saved."

  Win yawned. "Is there a point?"

  "I thought it was pretty obvious but here it is: Why suddenly are you willing--enthusiastic even--about taking on this particular rescue mission when in the past--"

  "In the past," Win interrupted, "I always helped out, didn't I?"

  "For the most part, yes."

  Win looked up, tapped his chin with his index finger. "How to explain this?" He stopped, thought, nodded. "We have a tendency to believe good things will last forever. It is in our nature. The Beatles, for example. Oh, they'll be around forever. The Sopranos--that show will always be on the air. Philip Roth's Zuckerman series. Springsteen concerts. Good things are rare. They are to be cherished because they always leave us too soon."

  Win rose, started for the door. Before he left the room, he looked back.

  "Doing this stuff with you," Win said, "is one of those good things."


  It did not take much to track down Lex Ryder.

  Esperanza Diaz, Myron's business partner at MB Reps, called him at eleven P.M. and said, "Lex just used his credit card at Three Downing."

  Myron was staying, as he often did, at Win's co-op in the legendary Dakota building, overlooking Central Park West on the corner of Seventy-second Street. Win had a spare bedroom or three. The Dakota dates back to 1884 and it looks it. The fortresslike structure was beautiful and dark and somehow wonderfully depressing. It's a hodgepodge of gables, balconies, finials, pediments, balustrades, half domes, cast iron, archways, ornate railing, stepped dormers--a bizarre blend that was somehow seamless, hauntingly perfect rather than overwhelming.

  "What's that?" Myron asked.

  "You don't know Three Downing?" Esperanza asked.

  "Should I?"

  "It's probably the hippest bar in the city right now. Diddy, supermodels, the fashionista, that crowd. It's in Chelsea."


  "It's a little disappointing," Esperanza said.


  "That a playah of your magnitude doesn't know all the trendy spots."

  "When Diddy and I go clubbing, we take the white Hummer stretch and use underground entrances. The names blur."

  "Or being engaged is cramping your style," Esperanza said. "So do you want to head over there and pick him up?"

  "I'm in my pajamas."

  "Yep, a playah. Do the pajamas have feetsies?"

  Myron checked his watch again. He could be downtown before midnight. "I'm on my way."

  "Is Win there?" Esperanza asked.

  "No, he's still out."

  "So you're going down alone?"

  "You're worried about a tasty morsel like me in a nightclub on my own?"

  "I'm worried you won't get in. I'll meet you there. Half hour. Seventeenth Street entrance. Dress to impress."

  Esperanza hung up. This surprised Myron. Since becoming a mother, Esperanza, former all-night, bisexual party girl, never went out late anymore. She had always taken her job seriously--she now owned 49 percent of MB Reps and with Myron's strange travels of late had really carried the load. But after a decade-plus of leading a night lifestyle so hedonistic it would have made Caligula envious, Esperanza had stopped cold, gotten married to the uber-straight Tom, and had a son named Hector. She went from Lindsay Lohan to Carol Brady in four-point-five seconds.

  Myron looked in his closet and wondered what to wear to a trendy nightspot. Esperanza had said dress to impress, so he went with his tried and true--jeans-blue-blazer-expensive-loafer look--Mr. Casual Chic--mostly because that was all he owned that fit the bill. There was really little in his closet between jeansblazer and all-out suit, unless you wanted to look like the sales guy at an electronics store.

  He grabbed a cab on Central Park West. The cliche of Manhattan taxi drivers is that they are all foreign and barely speak English. The cliche may be true, but it had been at least five years since Myron had actually spoken to one. Despite recent laws, every single cabdriver in New York City wore a mobile-phone Bluetooth in his ear, twenty-four/seven, quietly talking in his native tongue to whoever was on the other end. Manners aside, Myron always wondered whom they had in their lives that wanted to talk to them all day. In this sense, one could argue that these were very lucky men.

  Myron figured that he'd see a long line, a velvet rope, something, but as they approached the Seventeenth Street address, there was no sign of any nightclub. Finally he realized that the "Three" stood for the third floor and that "Downing" was the name of the quasi-high-rise in front of him. Someone went to the MB Reps School of Literal Business Naming.

  The elevator arrived on the third floor. As soon as the doors slid open, Myron could feel the music's deep bass in his chest. The long queue of desperate wanna-enters started immediately. Purportedly, people went to clubs like this to have a good time, but the truth was, most stood on a line and ended up with a sharp reminder that they still weren't cool enough to sit at the popular kids' lunch table. VIPs walked right past them with nary a glance and somehow that made them want to go in more. There was a velvet rope, of course, sig
naling their lower status, and it was guarded by three steroid-stuffed bouncers with shaved heads and practiced scowls.

  Myron approached with his best Win-like swagger. "Hey, fellas."

  The bouncers ignored him. The biggest of the three wore a black suit with no shirt. None. Suit jacket, no shirt. His chest was nicely waxed, displaying impressive metrosexual cleavage. He was currently dealing with a group of four maybe-twenty-one-year-old girls. They all wore ridiculously high heels--heels were definitely in this year--so that they teetered more than strutted. Their dresses were skimpy enough for a citation, but really, that was nothing new.

  The bouncer was examining them cattle-call style. The girls posed and smiled. Myron half expected them to open their mouths so he could examine their teeth.

  "You three are okay," Cleavage told them. "But your friend here is too chunky."

  The chunky girl, who was maybe a size eight, started to cry. Her three waiflike friends gathered in a circle and debated if they should go in without her. The chunky girl ran off in sobs. The friends shrugged and entered. The three bouncers smirked.

  Myron said, "Classy."

  The smirks turned his way. Cleavage met Myron's eyes, offering up a challenge. Myron met his gaze and did not look away. Cleavage looked Myron up and down and clearly found him wanting.

  "Nice outfit," Cleavage said. "You on your way to fight a parking ticket in traffic court?"

  His two compadres, both sporting tourniquet-tight Ed Hardy T-shirts, liked that one.

  "Right," Myron said, pointing at the cleavage. "I should have left my shirt at home."

  The bouncer on Cleavage's left made a surprised O with his mouth.

  Cleavage stuck out his thumb, umpire-style. "End of the line, pal. Or better yet, just head out."

  "I'm here to see Lex Ryder."

  "Who says he's here?"

  "I say."

  "And you are?"

  "Myron Bolitar."

  Silence. One of them blinked. Myron almost shouted, "Ta-da," but refrained.

  "I'm his agent."

  "Your name isn't on the list," Cleavage said.

  "And we don't know who you are," Surprised O added.

  "So"--the third bouncer waved with five beefy fingers--"buh-bye."

  "Irony," Myron said.


  "Don't you guys see the irony?" Myron asked. "You are gatekeepers at a place you yourselves would never be allowed in--and yet, rather than seeing that and thus adding a human touch, you act like even bigger overcompensating ass-clowns."

  More blinking. Then all three stepped toward him, a giant wall of pecs. Myron felt his blood thrum. His fingers tightened into fists. He relaxed them, kept his breathing even. They moved closer. Myron did not step back. Cleavage, the leader, leaned toward him.

  "You better go now, bub."

  "Why? Am I too chunky? By the way, seriously, do these jeans make my ass look big? You can tell me."

  The long line of wanna-enters quieted at the sight of this challenge. The bouncers glanced at one another. Myron scolded himself. Talk about counterproductive. He had come here to fetch Lex, not get into it with raging 'roid heads.

  Cleavage smiled and said, "Well, well, looks like we have a comedian here."

  "Yeah," Surprised-O Bouncer said, "a comedian. Ha-ha."

  "Yeah," his partner said. "You're a real comedian, aren't you, funny man?"

  "Well," Myron said, "at the risk of appearing immodest, I'm also a gifted vocalist. I usually open with 'The Tears of a Clown,' move into a stripped-down version of 'Lady'--more Kenny Rogers than Lionel Richie. Not a dry eye in the house."

  Cleavage leaned in close to Myron's ear, his buddies nearby. "You do realize, of course, that we're going to have to kick your ass."

  "And you do realize, of course," Myron said, "that steroids make your testicles shrink."

  Then from behind him, Esperanza said, "He's with me, Kyle."

  Myron turned, saw Esperanza, and managed not to say, "Wow," out loud, though it wasn't easy. He had known Esperanza for two decades now, had worked side by side with her, and sometimes, when you see someone every day and become best friends, you just forget what a total knee-knocking sizzler she is. When they met, Esperanza had been a scantily clad professional wrestler known as Little Pocahontas. Lovely, lithe, and teeth-meltingly hot, she left being the glamour girl of FLOW (Fabulous Ladies of Wrestling) to become his personal assistant while getting her law degree at night. She had moved up the ranks, so to speak, and was now Myron's partner at MB Reps.

  Kleavage Kyle's face broke into a smile. "Poca? Girl, is that really you? You look good enough to lick like an ice cream cone."

  Myron nodded. "Smooth line, Kyle."

  Esperanza offered her cheek for a buss. "Nice to see you too," she said.

  "Been too long, Poca."

  Esperanza's dark beauty brought on images of moonlit skies, night walks on the beach, olive trees in a gentle breeze. She wore hoop earrings. Her long black hair always had the perfect muss to it. Her sheer white blouse had been fitted by a benevolent deity; it may have been open a button too low but it was all working.

  The three goons stepped back now. One released the velvet rope. Esperanza rewarded him with a dazzling smile. As Myron followed, Kleavage Kyle positioned himself to bump into Myron. Myron braced himself and made sure that Kyle got the worst of it. Esperanza muttered, "Men."

  Kleavage Kyle whispered to Myron: "We ain't through, bub."

  "We'll do lunch," Myron said. "Maybe catch a matinee of South Pacific."

  As they headed inside, Esperanza shot Myron a look and shook her head.


  "I said dress to impress. You look like you're heading to a parent-teacher conference for a fifth grader."

  Myron pointed at his feet. "In Ferragamo loafers?"

  "And what were you starting up with those Neanderthals for?"

  "He called a girl chunky."

  "And you came to her rescue?"

  "Well, no. But he said it right to her face. 'Your friends can come in but you can't because you're chunky.' Who does that?"

  The main room in the club was dark with neon accents. There were large-screen TVs in one section because if you're out at a nightclub, what you really want to do, Myron guessed, was watch TV. The sound system, approximately the size and dimension of a Who stadium concert's, assaulted the senses. The DJ played "house music," a practice whereby the "talented" DJ takes what might ordinarily be a decent song and absolutely destroys it by adding some kind of synthesized bass or electronic beat. There was a laser show, something Myron thought went out of style after a Blue Oyster Cult tour in 1979, and a bevy of young thin-sticks oohed and ahhed over a special effect on the dance floor whereby said floor belched steam, as though you couldn't see that on the street near any Con Ed truck.

  Myron tried to shout over the music, but it was pointless. Esperanza led him to a quiet area with, of all things, Web-access terminals. All stations were taken. Again Myron shook his head. You come to a nightclub to surf the Net? He turned back to the dance floor. The women were, in this smoky light, largely on the attractive side, albeit young, and dressed more like they were playing adults than actually being ones. The majority of the women had their cell phones out, skinny fingers tapping off texts; they danced with a languorousness that bordered on comatose.

  Esperanza had a small smile on her face.

  "What?" Myron said.

  She gestured to the right side of the dance floor. "Check out the ass on that chick in the red."

  Myron looked at the crimson-clad dancing buttocks and remembered an Alejandro Escovedo lyric: "I like her better when she walks away." It had been a long time since Myron had heard Esperanza talk like this.

  "Nice," Myron said.



  Esperanza nodded, still smiling. "There are things I could do with an ass like that."

  Looking at the rather erotic dancer and then at Esperanza, an image
popped into Myron's head. He immediately forced it out. There were places your mind best not go when you're trying to concentrate on other matters. "I'm sure your husband would love that."

  "I'm married, not dead. I can look."

  Myron watched her face, watched the excitement there, the strange feeling that she was back in her element. When her son, Hector, was born two years ago, Esperanza had immediately gone into Mommy-mode. Her desk was suddenly filled with a corny potpourri of classic images: Hector with the Easter Bunny, Hector with Santa Claus, Hector with Disney characters and on kiddie rides at Hershey Park. Her best business clothes were often stained with baby spit-up and rather than hide it, she loved to tell how said spit-up made its way onto her person. She made friends with Mommy types who would have made her gag in the past, and discussed Maclaren strollers and Montessori preschools and bowel movements and what ages their various offspring first crawled/ walked/talked. Her entire world, like many mothers before her--and yes, this was something of a sexist statement--had shrunk down into a small mass of baby flesh.

  "So where would Lex be?" Myron asked.

  "Probably one of the VIP rooms."

  "How do we get in?"

  "I undo one more button," Esperanza said. "Seriously, let me work it alone for a minute. Check out the bathroom. I bet you twenty bucks you can't take a pee in the urinal."


  "Just bet me and go," she said, pointing to the right.

  Myron shrugged and headed into the restroom. It was black and dark and marble. He stepped over to the urinal and saw immediately what Esperanza meant. The urinals sat on a giant wall of one-way glass like something in a police interrogation room. In short, you saw everything on the dance floor. The languorous women were literally feet away from him, some using the mirror side of the glass to check themselves out, not realizing (or maybe definitely realizing) that they were staring at a man trying to relieve himself.

  He headed out. Esperanza had her hand extended, palm up. Myron crossed it with a twenty-dollar bill.

  "Still got the shy bladder, I see."

  "Is the women's room the same?"

  "You don't want to know."

  "So what next?"

  Esperanza gestured with her chin at a man with slicked-back hair oiling his way toward them. When he filled out his job application, Myron had little doubt that it read, Last Name: Trash. First Name: Euro. Myron checked the man's wake for slime tracks.

  Euro smiled with ferret teeth. "Poca, mi amor."