Live wire, p.23
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       Live Wire, p.23

         Part #10 of Myron Bolitar series by Harlan Coben
 
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  "And finally, do you think you could just jerk my chain a little harder with all these specifics?"

  Myron debated tossing Muse a bone, telling her about Suzze visiting Kitty, that the disposable cell phone Suzze called not long before her death had belonged to his sister-in-law. But then he realized where that would lead--more questions and maybe a visit to the Coddington Rehabilitation Institute--and decided against it.

  Instead he tried answering a question with a question. "Do you have any new evidence to suggest it was anything other than an overdose?"

  "Ah, I see," Muse said. "If I give you something, you'll continue to give me nothing. Quid pro nada."

  "I really don't know anything yet."

  "You're so full of crap, Myron. But at this point, what do I care? To answer your question, there is not a shred of evidence that points to foul play in the death of Suzze T. That help?"

  Not really.

  "So where are you right now?" Muse asked.

  Myron frowned. "You serious?"

  "Not going to tell me, eh?"

  "Not going to tell you."

  "So you only trust me so far?"

  "You have an obligation as an officer of the law to report anything I say," Myron said. "But you can't say what you don't know."

  "How about telling me who lived in that trailer? I'm going to find out anyway."

  "No, but . . ." There was a bone he wanted to toss her, even though he had given his word he wouldn't.

  "But?"

  "Get a warrant on a middle school teacher in Ridgewood named Joel Fishman. He's a drug dealer." Myron had promised ol' Crush that he would not report him, but when you pull a gun on someone in a middle school, well, Joel never called "no crossies."

  When he finished giving her enough details to nail Fishman, Myron hit the end button. Cell phones were not allowed in the hospital so he called the administrative desk. They transferred him around until he found a nurse who was willing to go on the record and tell him there was nothing new to report on his father's condition. Terrific.

  The limousine pulled right out onto the tarmac next to the aircraft. No luggage checkin, no boarding pass, no security line in which the man in front of you forgets to take the spare change out of his pocket despite forty-seven requests to do so and sets off the metal detector. When you fly private, you pull up right onto the tarmac, you walk up the stairs, and bingo, you're off.

  As Win often pointed out, it was good to be rich.

  Win was on board already with a couple he introduced as "Sassy and Sinclair Finthorpe" and their twin teenage sons, "Billings and Blakely."

  Myron frowned. And rich people made fun of African American names?

  Sassy and Sinclair both wore tweed jackets. Sassy was also decked out in riding pants and leather gloves. She had blond hair tied back in a severe ponytail. She was probably in her midfifties with plenty of hard wrinkles from too much sun. Sinclair was bald, paunchy, and wore a reallive ascot. He laughed heartily at everything and said, "Quite, quite," in reply to nearly anything said to him.

  "This is so exciting," Sassy said through the clenched teeth. "Isn't it, Sinclair?"

  "Quite, quite."

  "Like we're helping out James Bond on a secret mission."

  "Quite, quite."

  "Boys? Isn't this exciting?"

  Billings and Blakely looked at her with classic teenage loathing.

  Sassy said, "This calls for cocktails!"

  They offered Myron a drink. He passed. Billings and Blakely continued to look on with haughty scorn, or maybe that was their default genetic facial expressions. The twins both had wavy, Kennedyesque hair and wore tennis whites with sweaters tied around their necks. Win's world.

  They all took their seats, and within five minutes of boarding the plane, the wheels were up. Win sat next to Myron.

  "Sinclair is a cousin," Win said. "They have a place on Adiona Island and were going to head up there tomorrow. I just asked them to move it up."

  "Because Crisp won't know we're on this flight?"

  "Exactly. If I had taken my plane or a boat, we would have tipped him off. He may have a man watching the airport though. We'll let my cousins get off first and then sneak out."

  "Do you have a plan to get us onto Wire's property?"

  "I do. It will require some local help though."

  "From?"

  "I'm handling it," Win said with a small smile. "There is no cell phone service on the island, but I have a satellite phone, in case the hospital needs to reach us."

  Myron nodded. He leaned back and closed his eyes.

  "One more rather important thing," Win said.

  "I'm listening."

  "Esperanza ran a trace on that license plate from the trailer park. The car is currently leased to a company called Regent Rental Associates. She then traced back the company's history. Guess who owns Regent Rental?"

  Myron still had his eyes closed. "Herman Ache."

  "Should I be impressed?"

  "I'm right?"

  "You are. How did you know?"

  "An educated guess. It's all connected."

  "And you have a theory?"

  "A partial one."

  "Do tell."

  "I think it's what we said before. Frank Ache told you that Wire had big gambling debts, right?"

  "Correct."

  "So we start there--Gabriel Wire and maybe Lex owing money to Herman Ache. But I think Herman really got his hooks into Wire during the Alista Snow incident."

  "By protecting him from criminal charges?"

  "By making the charges--criminal and otherwise--disappear. Whatever is going on here, it all started the night Alista Snow died."

  Win nodded, mulling it over. "And that would explain why Suzze visited Karl Snow yesterday."

  "Right, another connection," Myron said. "Suzze is somehow linked into that night too. Maybe via Lex. Maybe via her secret lover Gabriel Wire. I'm not sure. But for whatever reason, she needed to come forward and tell the truth now. She went to Kitty and admitted some wrongdoing by switching out her birth control pills. Then she went to Karl Snow. Maybe she told him what really happened to his daughter, I don't know."

  Myron stopped. Yet again something wasn't adding up. Win voiced it.

  "And then, after clearing her conscience, a pregnant Suzze T purchased heroin, went back to her penthouse abode, and committed suicide?"

  Myron shook his head. "I don't care what the evidence shows. That doesn't make sense."

  "You have an alternate theory?"

  "I do," Myron said. "Herman Ache had her killed. It was a professional job all the way, so my guess is, Crisp did the deed. He's good at making murder appear to be natural causes."

  "Motive?"

  Myron still wasn't sure. "Suzze knew something--probably something that could damage Wire, maybe bring back the criminal charges from Alista Snow. So Ache has her killed. Then he sends two men to find Kitty and kill her."

  "Why Kitty?"

  "I don't know. Again he was cleaning house. Herman figured that she knew something or maybe he was afraid Suzze had talked to her. Whatever, Herman decided to take no chances. Scorch the earth. Kill Suzze and Kitty."

  "And you," Win finished for him.

  "Yep."

  "And what about your brother? How does he fit in?"

  "I don't know."

  "A lot we don't know."

  "Almost everything," Myron agreed. "But here's another thing: If Brad went back to Peru, why was his passport in the trailer?"

  "Most likely answer? He didn't go. And if that's the case, what might we safely conclude?"

  "That Kitty lied," Myron said.

  "Kitty lied," Win repeated. "Wasn't that a song by Steely Dan?"

  "Katy Lied. And it was the name of an album, not a song."

  "Oh, right. I loved that album."

  Myron tried to turn his brain off for just a little while so as to rest up before they stormed the castle. He'd just closed his eyes and put his head back w
hen the plane began its descent. Five minutes later they were on the ground. Myron checked his watch. He had arrived at Teterboro Airport forty-five minutes ago.

  Yep. It was good to be rich.

  29

  The shades on the plane were pulled so no one could see inside. The Finthorpe family disembarked. The pilots parked the plane, turned off the lights, got off themselves. Myron and Win stayed in place. Night had fallen.

  Myron tried the hospital from the satellite phone. This time Dr. Ellis got on the phone with him. "Your father is out of surgery, but this has been a tough one. His heart stopped twice on the table."

  The tears started coming again. Myron forced them back. "Can I speak to my mother?"

  "We gave her a sedative and she's sleeping in a room down the hall. Your nephew is asleep in a chair too. It's been a long night."

  "Thank you."

  Win came out of the bathroom, dressed head to toe in black. "There's a change of clothes for you in there," he said. "There's also a shower. It might help refresh you. Our help will be here in ten minutes."

  The plane's showerhead was not designed for the tall, but the water pressure was surprisingly strong. Myron hunched over and used nine of his allotted ten minutes under the nozzle and one minute drying off and slipping into the black garb. Win was right--it did refresh.

  "Our ride awaits," Win said. "But first . . ."

  He handed Myron two guns. The larger one had a shoulder holster. The smaller was to wrap around the ankle. Myron fastened them into place. Win led the way. The plane steps were slippery. Rain pelted down on them. Win ducked back under the plane for protection. He took night-vision goggles out of their case and strapped them onto his face like a scuba mask. He slowly turned around in a circle.

  "All clear," Win said.

  He put the goggles back into their pouch. Then he held up his mobile phone and pressed a button. The screen lit up. In the distance Myron saw someone flash car headlights at them. Win started toward the vehicle. Myron followed. The airport, if you will, was basically a landing strip with a concrete building. There was nothing else. A road crossed the front of the landing strip. There were no traffic lights or even a gate to stop cars from going by--one had to guess, Myron assumed, when an incoming plane was on the way. Or maybe it was more of the Adiona Island mystique. You simply knew when someone was coming.

  The rain kept pouring. A thunderbolt shattered the air. Win reached the car first and opened the back door. Myron slid in and across to behind the passenger side. He looked in the front seats and was surprised to find Billings and Blakely.

  "Our local help?"

  Win grinned. "Who better?"

  The car smelled like an old bong.

  "Cousin Win told us you want to get into Wire's place," the twin driving said.

  "Which one are you?" Myron asked.

  He looked insulted. "I'm Billings."

  "And I'm Blakely."

  "Right, sorry."

  "Blakely and I have spent every summer on this island for as long as we can remember. It can indeed get boring."

  "Not enough girls," Blakely added.

  "Too right," Billings said. He started driving. There were no other cars on the road. "Last year we made up cruel stories about some of the uglier au pairs."

  "So they'd be fired," Blakely said.

  "Exactly so."

  "And none of these mommies want to take care of their little brats."

  "Heavens no."

  "So they have to replace the au pairs."

  "Often with more attractive ones."

  "See the brilliance?"

  Myron looked at Win. Win just grinned.

  "Pretend I do," Myron said.

  "Anyway, this island can get boring," Blakely said.

  "Dullsville," Billings added.

  "Tedious."

  "Tiresome."

  "You could die from such boredom, really. And in truth, no one is even sure that Gabriel Wire lives in that estate."

  "We've never seen him."

  "But we've gotten close to the house."

  "We've touched it."

  Blakely turned around and flashed the teeth at Myron. "See, we bring the babes there. We tell them that the house belongs to Gabriel Wire and that it's well guarded."

  "Because danger is an aphrodisiac."

  "If you mention danger to a girl, her panties practically melt off, do you hear what I'm saying?"

  Myron looked at Win again. Win still grinned.

  "Pretend I do," Myron said again.

  Billings continued: "It took us a while--trial and error, don't you know--but we found a safe path to the beach by Wire's house."

  "We never get caught anymore."

  "Not in the last two summers anyway."

  "We go to the beach. Sometimes we bring girls."

  "In your day," Billings said, looking at Myron, "you probably called it Lover's Lane or something like that."

  "Like in an old movie."

  "Exactly. Like, you took them to the malt shop and then you went to Lover's Lane, right?"

  "Yes," Myron said. "After the horse-and-buggy ride."

  "Right. See, the beach by Wire's house? That's our version of that."

  "Billings is very good with the ladies," Blakely said.

  "Ol' Blakely here is being too modest."

  They both chuckled with their jaws set. Blakely pulled out a hand-rolled cigarette and lit it up. He took a hit and passed it to his brother.

  "We also smoke reefer there," Billings said.

  "Doobies."

  "Weed."

  "Hemp."

  "Grass."

  "Joints."

  "A little ganja."

  "Marijuana," Myron said, cutting them off. "I get it."

  The boys started snickering. This was not their first cigarette of the night.

  Win said, "Blakely and Billings are going to lead us down their secret path."

  "Where we bring the girls."

  "Our honeys."

  "Babes-a-licious."

  "Glorious hotties."

  "Tasties."

  "Gnaw-worthy morsels."

  Myron looked at Win. "They, uh, seem young to get involved in this."

  "Nah, it's cool," Billings said. "They won't hurt us."

  "Plus we're brave."

  "Especially after we do a little herb."

  "Some hay butt."

  "A little Dona Juanita."

  "A touch of Mary Jane."

  "Panama Gal."

  They were laughing hysterically now. As hysterically as you can with your jaw clenched. Again Myron looked at Win, wondering about relying on a couple of well-bred stoners. At the same time, breaking into places--finding a way into even the best guarded of edifices--was one of Win's strong points. He had a plan. Myron would just follow it.

  They drove past two security stations in the middle of the road with nary a wave. The twins and their reefer-reeking vehicle were clearly well-known on the island. No one bothered them. Billings or Blakely--Myron had already forgotten--drove erratically. Myron fastened his seat belt. During the daytime, this island seemed remote. At night, especially in the rain, it felt totally and completely abandoned.

  Billings--Myron remembered now--took the car off the pavement and down a dirt road. The road tested the shocks and found them wanting. Myron bounced around the back as the car traveled through thick woods until they hit a clearing. The car came to a stop near the beach.

  Blakely turned around again. He offered Myron a hit. Myron waved him off with a no-thanks.

  "You sure? It's premium."

  "Primo," Billings added.

  "Boss."

  "I get it," Myron said. "It's really good."

  The twins sat back and for a moment all was silent. "Whenever I'm on the beach," Billings said, "I pick up one grain of sand."

  "Oh no," Blakely said. "Here we go again."

  "No, I'm serious here. Think about it. One grain of sand. I pick up one tiny grain of sand and I think of
how many grains of sand are on this beach. Then I think about how many of them are on this entire island. Then I start thinking about how many grains of sand there are in this entire world. And I'm, like, whoa."

  Myron looked at Win some more.

  "And the kicker--the real kicker--is that our entire planet is smaller than that grain of sand next to all those other grains. Can you even comprehend that? Our solar system is smaller than that grain of sand when you compare it to the rest of the universe."

  Myron said, "How much of this stuff have you smoked today?"

  Billings chuckled. "Come on. Let's get you on your way to Mr. Famous Rock Star."

  "I hate his music," Blakely added.

  "Total crap."

  "Self-indulgent dung."

  "Pretentious caterwauling."

  They stepped out of the car. Myron was about to open the door, but Win put his hand on his knee. "Wait. Let them take the lead. We need to stay hidden."

  "Do you really trust these kids?"

  "They serve a purpose. Don't worry."

  A minute later, Win nodded that it was okay. The rain continued to pound down on them. The twins had gone down a path off the beach. Myron and Win followed, staying a solid fifty yards back. The rain made the visibility tough. They trekked on a serpentine route through a rather hilly wooded area. The path was gone now so that they had to duck under tree branches and step over rocks. Every once in a while, Myron could see the beach to his left through openings in the trees. Finally, Win put his arm in front of Myron, gatelike. They both stopped.

  The twins were gone.

  "They've reached Wire's property," Win said. "We need to be more cautious now."

  Myron let Win take the lead. They slowed their step. The opening looked like a black hole. Myron wiped the rain from his face. Win bent low. He took out the night-vision goggles and pulled them over his face. He signaled for Myron to wait and then he vanished into the dark. A few moments later, Win came back into the woods and signaled for Myron to come forward.

  Myron stepped into the clearing and saw via moonlight that they were on a beach. About fifty yards in front of them on the left, Billings and Blakely lay on big boulders. They were on their backs, passing a joint back and forth, the rain not a factor. Waves pounded the boulders. Win's gaze was turned to the right. Myron followed it up the hill and saw what had snagged his friend's attention.

  Whoa, Nelly.

  Gabriel Wire's palace sat perched alone overlooking the Atlantic. Victorian neo-Gothic with red brick, stone, terra-cotta roof, and cathedral spires a la the House of Parliament, the estate was perfect for the rock-star ego, sprawling and sensual and absolutely nothing like the more understated WASP homes that dotted the rest of the island. The front had a fortress feel with a gated archway that looked like an oversized duplicate of the one on Lex and Suzze's rooftop.

 
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