Live wire, p.22
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       Live Wire, p.22
 

         Part #10 of Myron Bolitar series by Harlan Coben

  Just right.

  When Myron was young, his father played only AM stations when he drove. He would steer with his wrists and whistle. In the morning, Dad would listen to an all-news station as he shaved.

  Myron kept waiting for the phone to ring. Before leaving the hospital, he almost had a change of heart. Suppose, Myron had asked his mother, Dad woke up only one more time. Suppose Myron missed his last chance to talk to his father.

  Mom had replied matter-of-factly: "What would you say that he doesn't already know?"

  Good point. In the end, it was a question of his father's wishes. What would Dad rather Myron do--sit in a waiting room and cry or go out and try to find his brother? The answer was pretty simple when you posed it like that.

  Myron arrived at the trailer park. He snapped off the engine. Fatigue weighed down his bones. He half stumbled out of the car, rubbing his eyes. Man, he needed a cup of coffee. Something. The adrenaline had begun to ebb. He reached the door. Locked. Had he really forgotten to get the key from Mickey? He shook his head, reached into his wallet, and pulled out the same credit card.

  The door unlocked just as it had several hours ago. The laptop was still in the main room, near Mickey's pullout couch. He flipped it on and while it booted up, he searched the place. Mickey was right. There were very few possessions. The clothes had been packed already. The TV had probably come with the rental. Myron found a drawer of old papers and photographs. He had just dumped them on the couch when the computer dinged that it was all booted up.

  Myron sat next to the pile of assorted papers, pulled the laptop toward him, and brought up the Internet history. Facebook was there. Google searches showed that someone had looked up the Three Downing nightclub in Manhattan and the Garden State Plaza Mall. Another Web site had been used to figure out public transportation routes to both. Nothing here. Brad had gone back to Peru three months ago anyway. The history only went back a few days.

  His phone rang. It was Win.

  "I have set it up. We leave for Adiona Island in two hours out of Teterboro."

  Teterboro was a private airport in northern New Jersey. "Okay, I'll be there."

  Myron hung up and looked back at the computer. The Internet history hadn't given up anything clue worthy. So now what?

  Try some other applications, he thought. He started bringing them up one at a time. No one used the Calendar or the Address Book programs--both were empty. PowerPoint had a few school presentations by Mickey, most recently one on the history of the Mayans. The slideshow was in Spanish. Impressive but not relevant. He brought up the Word file. Again there were a bunch of what had to be school projects. Myron was about to give up when he spotted an eight-month-old file called "Resignation Letter." Myron clicked the icon and read:

  To: The Abeona Shelter

  Dear Juan:

  It is with a heavy heart, my old friend, that I resign my position with our wonderful organization. Kitty and I will always be loyal supporters. We believe in this cause so much and have given so much to it. In truth, though, we have been more enriched than the young people we've helped. You understand this. We will always be grateful.

  It is time, however, for the wandering Bolitars to settle down. I've secured a position back in Los Angeles. Kitty and

  I like being nomads, but it has been a long time since we stopped long enough to grow roots. Our son, Mickey, needs that, I think. He never asked for this life. He has spent his life traveling, making and then losing friends, and never calling one place home. He needs normalcy now and a chance to pursue his passions, especially basketball. So after much debate, Kitty and I have decided to get him settled into one place for his last three years of high school, and then he can apply to college.

  After that, who knows? I never imagined this life for myself. My father used to quote a Yiddish proverb. Man plans, God laughs. Kitty and I hope to return one day. I know that no one really ever leaves the Abeona Shelter. I know I am asking a big thing here. But I hope you'll understand. In the meantime, we will do all we can to make this transition a smooth one.

  Yours in Brotherhood, Brad

  Abeona Shelter. Kitty had posted "Not His" using the profile name "Abeona S." Myron quickly Googled "Abeona Shelter." Nothing. Hmm. He again Googled Abeona and found that it was the name of a somewhat obscure Roman goddess who protected children the first time they left their parents' care. Myron was not sure what that all meant, if anything. Supposedly, Brad had always worked for nonprofits. Was the Abeona Shelter one of them?

  He called Esperanza next. He gave her Juan's address and the name of the Abeona Shelter. "Reach out to him. See if he knows anything."

  "Okay. Myron?"

  "Yes."

  "I really love your dad."

  He smiled. "Yeah, I know."

  Silence.

  Esperanza said, "You know the expression that there's never a good time to give bad news."

  Uh-oh. "What is it?"

  "I'm of two minds on something," she said. "I could wait until things are good before I tell you this. Or I can just throw it on the pile and with everything else going on, you'll barely notice."

  "Throw it on the pile."

  "Thomas and I are getting a divorce."

  "Oh, damn." He thought about the pictures in her office, the happy family shots of Esperanza, Thomas, and little Hector. His heart sank anew. "I'm so sorry."

  "I'm hoping it will be peaceful," Esperanza said. "But I don't think it's going to be. Thomas is claiming I'm an unfit mother because of my sordid past and the hours I work. He's going for sole custody of Hector."

  "He'll never get it," Myron said.

  "Like you have control over that." She made a noise, might have been a half laugh. "But I love when you make definitive pronouncements like that."

  Myron flashed back to a recent one with Suzze:

  "I just got a bad feeling. I think I'm going to mess up."

  "You won't."

  "It's what I do, Myron."

  "Not this time. Your agent won't let you."

  Won't let her mess up. And now she was dead.

  Myron Bolitar: Big man with the big, definitive pronouncements.

  Before he could take it back, Esperanza said, "I'll get on this," and hung up.

  He just stared at the phone for a moment. The lack of sleep was starting to get to him. His head pounded to the point where he wondered if Kitty had any Tylenol in the medicine cabinet. He was about to get up and check when something snagged his attention.

  It was in the pile of papers and photographs on the end of the couch. On the bottom on the right. Just a corner stuck out. A royal blue corner. Myron's eyes narrowed. He reached for it and pulled it into view.

  It was a passport.

  Yesterday he found Kitty's and Mickey's passports in Kitty's purse. Brad had last been seen traveling to Peru, so that's where his passport would be, according to Kitty. That begged the obvious question: Whose passport was this?

  Myron flipped it open to the identification page. There, staring him in the face, was a photograph of his brother. He felt lost again, his pounding head spinning now.

  Myron was just wondering about his next move when he heard the whispers.

  There were times it paid to have frayed nerves. This was one of them. Instead of waiting or trying to figure out where the whispers were coming from or who was doing the whispering, Myron merely reacted. He leapt up, knocking the papers and photographs from the couch. Behind him he could hear the trailer door being smashed open. Myron dropped and rolled behind the couch.

  Two men burst into the room holding guns.

  They were both young, both pale, both skinny, both on something--what they used to call "heroin chic." The one on the right had a huge, complicated tattoo coming up out of the collar of his T-shirt, rising up his neck like a flame. The other had the practiced tough-guy goatee.

  The one with the goatee said, "What the . . . we saw him come in."

  "He's gotta be in the other room. I'll cover
you."

  Still on the floor behind the couch, Myron silently thanked Win for making sure that he was armed. There wasn't much time. The trailer was tiny. It would only take a few seconds to find Myron. He debated jumping out and yelling, "Freeze!" But both were armed and there was no way to know how they'd react. Neither looked particularly reliable, and thus there was an excellent chance they'd panic and start firing.

  No, better to keep them confused. Better to make them scatter.

  Myron made a decision. He hoped that it was the correct one, the rational one, and not just the emotional one, the one that yearned to lash out and inflict harm because his father was maybe dying and his brother was . . . He flashed back to Brad's passport and realized that he had no idea where his brother was, what he was doing, how much danger he was in.

  Clear the mind. Act rationally.

  Goatee took two steps toward the bedroom door. Staying low, Myron shifted to the end of the couch. He waited another second, took aim low at Goatee's knee, and without calling out a warning, Myron pulled the trigger.

  The knee exploded.

  Goatee let out a shout and collapsed to the ground. His gun skittered across the room. But Myron wasn't paying attention to that. He ducked low, kept out of sight, and watched for Neck Tattoo's reaction. If he started firing, Myron had a bead on him. But Neck Tattoo didn't. He too screamed and, as Myron hoped, he scattered.

  Neck Tattoo turned tail and dived back outside. Myron moved fast now. He jumped up and came out from behind the couch. On the floor in front of him, Goatee rolled in agony. Myron bent down, grabbed the man's face, made him look at him. Then Myron jammed the gun into Goatee's face.

  "Stop screaming or I'll kill you."

  Goatee quieted the scream to animal-like whimpers.

  Myron quickly retrieved the man's gun and then ran toward the window. He looked out. Neck Tattoo was hopping into a car. Myron checked the plates. New York. He quickly put the letter-number combination into his BlackBerry and sent it to Esperanza. Not much time now. He went back to Goatee.

  "Who are you working for?"

  Still whimpering he said in a childlike voice: "You shot me!"

  "Yes, I know. Who are you working for?"

  "Go to hell."

  Myron got down on his haunches. He pressed the barrel of the gun against the man's other knee. "I really don't have much time."

  "Please," he said, his voice going up too many octaves. "I don't know."

  "What's your name?"

  "What?"

  "Your name. Never mind. I'll call you Goatee. Here's what's going to happen, Goatee. I'm going to shoot your other knee now. Then I'll move to the elbows."

  Goatee was crying. "Please."

  "Eventually you'll tell me."

  "I don't know! I swear."

  Someone in the park had probably heard the gunshot. Neck Tattoo might come back with reinforcements. Either way, Myron had very little time here. He had to show he meant business. With a small sigh, Myron began to pull the trigger--he was that far gone--when a moment of common sense pushed through. Even if he could do it--even if he could shoot an unarmed, helpless man--the result of the shot would probably backfire on him. The pain would more likely make Goatee pass out or go into shock than get him to open up.

  Still Myron wasn't sure what he would do when he said, "Last chance . . ."

  Goatee came to the rescue. "His name is Bert! That's all I know. Bert!"

  "Last name?"

  "I don't know! Kevin set it up."

  "Who's Kevin?"

  "The guy who just left me here, man."

  "And what did Bert want you to do?"

  "We followed you, man. From the hospital. He said you'd lead us to Kitty Bolitar."

  Man, now Myron really knew that he was slipping. These two numb nuts had been behind him this whole time and Myron never spotted the tail? Pathetic. "And when you found Kitty, what were you supposed to do?"

  Goatee started crying again. "Please."

  Myron put the gun against the man's head. "Look at my eyes."

  "Please."

  "Stop crying and look at my eyes."

  He finally did. He was sniffling, trying to hold it together. His knee was a mess. Myron knew that he would probably never walk again without a limp. One day, that might bother Myron, but he doubted it.

  "Tell me the truth and this is all over. You probably won't even have to go to jail. Lie to me and I shoot you in the head, so there's no witness. Do you understand?"

  He kept his eyes surprisingly steady. "You're going to kill me anyway."

  "No, I'm not. You know why? Because I'm still the good guy here. I want to stay that way. So just tell me the truth and save us: What were you supposed to do when you found Kitty?"

  And then, with sirens signaling the approach of police cars, Goatee gave Myron the answer he expected: "We were supposed to kill you both."

  Myron opened the trailer door. The sirens were louder now.

  There was no time for Myron to get to his car. He ran left, away from the Glendale Estates entrance, as two police cars came into the trailer park. A powerful beacon of light from one of the cop cars hit him.

  "Stop! Police!"

  Myron didn't listen. The cops gave chase--or at least Myron assumed they did. He never turned around, just kept running. People came out of their trailers to see what the commotion was about, but no one got in his way. Myron had tucked his gun back into his waistband. There was no way he'd take it out and give the cops an excuse to open fire. As long as he wasn't a physical threat, they wouldn't shoot.

  Right?

  The squad car's loudspeaker came out with a crackle: "This is the police. Stop and put your hands in the air."

  For a moment he almost did it. He could explain. But it would take hours, maybe days, and he simply didn't have that kind of time. Win had found a way to get them to Adiona Island. Somehow Myron knew that it was going to come back to that place, back to the reclusive Gabriel Wire, and he wasn't about to give him the chance to slip away.

  The trailer park dead-ended into a wooded brush. Myron found a path and started on it. The police called for him to stop again. He darted to the left and kept going. Behind him he could hear movement in the bush. The cops were giving chase into the woods. He picked up his speed, trying to gain some distance. He debated hiding against a boulder or tree while they ran by, but what good would that do him? He needed to get out and free and up to Teterboro Airport.

  He heard more shouts, but they were farther back now. He risked a glance behind him. Someone had a flashlight, but they were pretty far away. Fine. Still moving, Myron managed to dig his Bluetooth out of his pocket and jam it into his ear.

  He hit the speed dial for Win.

  "Articulate."

  "I need a ride," Myron said.

  He quickly explained. Win listened without interrupting. Myron didn't need to give his location. The GPS in his BlackBerry would help Win track him down. He just needed to stay out of sight until that happened. When he finished, Win said, "You're about a hundred yards west of Highway One. Start north on the highway and you'll run into a fair amount of retail. Find a place to hide or blend. I'll hire a limousine service to pick you up and get you to the airport."

  28

  Myron found an open Panera Bread. The rich smell of pastry reminded him that he hadn't eaten in forever. He ordered a coffee and bear claw. He sat near a window by a side door in case he needed to make a quick exit. From this vantage point he could see any and all cars pulling into the lot. If one ended up being a squad car, he could get out and be off for the woods in no time flat. He sipped the coffee and inhaled the bear claw. He started thinking about his dad. His dad always ate too fast. On Saturday mornings way back when, Dad would take him and Brad to Seymour's Luncheonette on Livingston Avenue for a milk shake, French fries, and maybe a pack of baseball cards. Myron and Brad would sit on stools and twirl them. Dad would stand next to them, always, as if that was what a man did. When the fries came,
he'd lean against the counter and wolf them down. Dad was never fat, but he was always on the wrong side of the "healthy weight" line.

  Was that part of this? What if Dad had eaten better? What if Dad had worked out more or had a less stressful job or had a son who didn't get into jams that kept him up at night? What if his father hadn't come flying out of the house to defend that same son?

  Enough.

  Myron put the Bluetooth back into his ear and called Chief County Investigator Loren Muse. When she answered, Myron said, "I got a problem."

  "What's that?"

  "Do you have any sources in Edison, New Jersey?"

  "It's Middlesex County. I cover Essex and Hudson. But yes."

  "There was a shooting there tonight."

  "Is that a fact?"

  "And theoretically I might have done the shooting in self-defense."

  "Theoretically?"

  "I don't want any of this used against me."

  "You lawyer types. Go on."

  As Myron filled her in, a black limousine slowly cruised by. The window placard read: DOM DELUISE. Win. Myron hurried out, still talking through the Bluetooth, and ducked into the back. The driver offered up a hello. Myron mouthed a hello and then pointed to the earpiece, indicating that he was both on the phone and a pretentious ass.

  Loren Muse was not happy. "What exactly do you want me to do with this information?"

  "Tell your source."

  "Tell my source what exactly? That the shooter called me and said he doesn't want to turn himself in yet?"

  "Something like that."

  "And when do you expect that you'll have time to grace us with your presence?" Muse asked.

  "Soon."

  "Well, that should satisfy him."

  "I'm just trying to save them some headache, Muse."

  "You can do that by coming in now."

  "I can't."

  Silence. Then Muse asked: "Does this have something to do with Suzze's overdose?"

  "I think it does, yes."

  "Do you think these guys at the trailer were her drug dealers?"

  "They could have been, maybe."

  "Do you still think Suzze's death was murder?"

  "It's possible, yes."

 
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