Live wire, p.24
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       Live Wire, p.24

         Part #10 of Myron Bolitar series by Harlan Coben
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  Billings and Blakely sidled over to them. For a few moments they all just stared up at it. "Didn't we tell you?" Billings said.

  "Personally," Blakely said, "I think it's gauche."

  "Spectacularly ostentatious."

  "Over-the-top on steroids."




  Both boys giggled at that one. Then growing more somber, Blakely said, "But man oh man, what a total Babe Lair."

  "Love Nest."

  "Herpes Haven."

  "Penile Palace."

  "Beaver Trap."

  Myron tried not to sigh. It was like hanging out with a really annoying thesaurus. He turned to Win and asked what the plan was.

  "Follow me," Win said.

  As they moved back toward the tree line and angled up toward the house, Win explained that Billings and Blakely would approach the house from the front. "The twins have made it to the house several times before," Win said, "but they've never made it inside. They've rung the bell. They've tried the windows. Eventually a security guard chases them. The boys claim that there is only one guard at the house at night, while a second guard covers the gate on the road."

  "But they can't know that for sure."

  "No, so neither do we."

  Myron thought about it. "But they make it all the way to the house before the guard sees them. That means there are probably no motion detectors."

  "Motion detectors rarely work on large open estates," Win said. "Too many animals set off false alarms. There will probably be alarms or some kind of chime on the doors and windows, but that shouldn't concern us."

  Burglar alarms, Myron knew, kept out the amateur or run-of-the-mill robber. They did not keep out Win and his satchel of tools.

  "So the only big risk," Myron said, "is how many guards are in the actual house."

  Win smiled. His eyes had that funny glaze. "What's life without a few risks?"

  Still in the trees, Win and Myron reached a spot about twenty yards from the house. Win signaled for Myron to duck down. He pointed to the side door and whispered, "Servants' entrance. That's how we will make our approach."

  He took out his cell phone and again flashed it. In the distance, Billings and Blakely started climbing up the hill toward the estate's archway gate. The wind picked up speed, whipping the boys on their ascent. They kept their heads lowered and came closer.

  Win nodded at Myron. Both men got on their bellies and commando-crawled toward the servant's entrance. Myron could see that the door led to a kitchen or pantry or something like that, but the lights were off inside. The ground was sopping wet from the rain, making their crawl feel snail-like. The mud oozed beneath them, friction free.

  When Win and Myron reached the side door, they remained on their bellies and waited. Myron turned his head to the side and rested his chin on the wet ground. He could see the ocean. Lightning ripped the sky in two. Thunder crackled. They stayed there for one minute, then two. Myron started getting antsy.

  A few moments later, through the wind and rain, he heard a shout: "Your music sucks!"

  It was Billings or Blakely. The other--the one who hadn't yelled first--came back with, "It's horrendous!"




  "An offensive audible assault!"

  "A ghastly ear crime!"

  Win was up and working the door with a thin screwdriver. The lock wouldn't be a problem, but Win had spotted a magnetic sensor. He took a sliver of special foil and jammed it between the two sensors so it would work as a conduit.

  Through the rain, Myron could make out the twins' silhouettes running back toward the water. Behind them came another man, the security guard, who stopped once the twins hit the beach. He put something to his mouth--a walkie-talkie of some sort, Myron figured--and said, "It's just those stoned twins again."

  Win opened the door. Myron jumped inside. Win followed, closing the door behind them. They were now in an ultramodern kitchen. In the center of the room, there was a giant double oven with eight burners and a silver flume on the ceiling. Various pots and pans hung from the ceiling in decorative chaos. Myron remembered reading that Gabriel Wire was something of a gourmet cook, so Myron guessed that this all made sense. The pots and pans looked pristine--new or lightly used or simply well kept.

  Myron and Win stayed still for a full minute. No footsteps, no walkie-talkie shrieking, nothing. In the distance, probably way upstairs, they could hear the faint hint of music.

  Win nodded for Myron to go. They had already planned the post-entrance strategy. Myron would search for Gabriel Wire. Win would handle anyone who came to his defense. Myron switched his BlackBerry to a radio frequency and put the Bluetooth into his ear. Win did the same. Win would now be able to warn Myron of any incoming trouble--and vice versa.

  Staying low, Myron pushed open the door to the kitchen and into what might have been a ballroom. No lights--the only illumination coming from the screensavers on the two computers. Myron had expected something more ornate, but the room looked as though it'd been converted into a dentist's waiting room. The walls were painted white. The couch and love seat set looked more practical than stylish, like something you'd buy in any highway store. There was a file cabinet in the corner, a printer, a fax machine.

  The expansive staircase was wooden with ornate railings and a bloodred runner. Myron started up the stairs. The music, still faint, grew louder. He reached the top of the staircase and started down the long corridor. The wall on the right was loaded up with HorsePower's framed platinum albums and records. On the left were photographs of India and Tibet--places frequented by Gabriel Wire. Supposedly Wire had a luxury home in posh south Mumbai and often stayed, undercover, in monasteries in eastern Tibet's Kham district. Myron wondered about that. This house was so damn depressing. Yes, it was dark out and the weather could have been better, but had Gabriel Wire really spent most of the last fifteen years cooped up here alone? Maybe. Or maybe that was what Wire wanted people to believe. Maybe he was indeed a crazy, world-class reclusive in the vein of Howard Hughes. Or maybe he had just had enough of being the famous, constantly-in-the-spotlight front man Gabriel Wire. Maybe the other rumors were true and Wire went out all the time, wearing simple disguises so he could visit the Met in Manhattan or sit in the bleachers at Fenway Park. Maybe he had taken a look at when and how his life had slipped off the rails--the drugs, the gambling debts, the too-young girls--and remembered why he started, what originally drove him, what had made him happy: Making music.

  Maybe Wire's behavior of shunning the spotlight wasn't so crazy. Maybe this was the only way he could survive and thrive. Maybe, like anyone else who makes a life change, he had to hit bottom and how much lower can you get than feeling responsible for the death of a sixteen-year-old girl?

  Myron passed the final platinum album on the wall--a record called Aspects of Juno, HorsePower's very first. Like any other casual music fan, Myron had heard about the legendary first meeting between Gabriel Wire and Lex Ryder. Lex had been performing at a sketchy pub called the Espy in the St. Kilda area near Melbourne on a busy Saturday night, playing something slow and lyrical and getting booed by the rowdy, drunken crowd. One of those in the crowd was a handsome young singer named Gabriel Wire. Wire would later say that despite the din around him, he was both mesmerized and inspired by the melodies and the lyrics. Finally, with the boos reaching an earth-shattering decibel, Gabriel Wire took to the stage and more to save the poor bastard than anything else, he started jamming with Lex Ryder, changing his lyrics on the fly, speeding up the tempo, getting someone else to pick up a bass and the drums. Ryder started nodding. He came back with more riffs, moved from keyboard to guitar and then back again. The two men fed off each other. The crowd fell into a respectful hush, as though realizing what they were witnessing.

  HorsePower was born.

  How had Lex poetically put it at Three Downing just a few nights ago
? "Things ripple." It had all started there, in that seedy bar on the other side of the world more than a quarter century ago.

  Without warning, Myron flashed to his father now. He had tried to keep it out, tried to focus solely on the task at hand, but suddenly he saw his father not as a strong, healthy man but sprawled out on the basement floor. He wanted to run out of here. He wanted to get back on a damn plane and go back to that hospital, where he belonged, but then he thought how much sweeter it would be, how much more it would mean to his father, if he could somehow come back with his baby brother in tow.

  How had his brother gotten caught up with Gabriel Wire and the death of Alista Snow?

  The answer was obvious and sobering: Kitty.

  The familiar anger--Kitty's husband is missing and she's exchanging drugs for sex favors?--rose to the surface as he crept down the corridor. He could hear the music better now. An acoustic guitar and a soft singing voice: Gabriel Wire's.

  The sound was heartbreaking. Myron stopped and listened to the lyrics for a moment:

  "My only love, we'll never have yesterday again,

  And now I sit through an endless night . . ."

  It was coming from the end of the corridor. Toward the stairs up to the third floor.

  "My vision blurred by tears,

  Hardly feel the bitter cold,

  Hardly notice the pounding rain . . ."

  He passed an open door and risked a quick peek. Again the room was decorated with frighteningly functional furniture and gray wall-to-wall carpeting. No frills, no flair, no clever accent. Bizarre. Where the huge facade was jaw-droppingly majestic, the interior could double as middle-management office space. This was, Myron surmised, either a guest bedroom or maybe one of the security guards stayed here. But still.

  He kept moving. There was a narrow stairway at the end of the corridor. He was nearing it now, getting closer to the plaintive sound:

  "Remember our last time together,

  Spoke of a love lasting forever,

  Our eyes met in some kind of trance,

  Everyone vanished as we just held hands,

  But now you're gone too. . . ."

  There was one more open door before the stairway. Myron took a quick look and froze.

  A nursery.

  The baby mobile with its potpourri of animals--ducks, horses, giraffes in bright, loud colors--hung over a Victorian bassinet. A butterfly night-light provided enough illumination for Myron to see the Winnie the Pooh wallpaper--the old Winnie drawings, not the more modern ones--and, in a corner, a woman in full nurse garb dozed in a chair. Myron tiptoed into the room and looked into the bassinet. A newborn. Myron assumed that it was his godson. So this was where Lex had run to--or at least, this was where Suzze's son was. Why?

  Myron wanted to tell Win, but he didn't dare whisper. With the keyboard on silent, he typed in a text: BABY ON SECOND FLOOR.

  Nothing more to do in here. He carefully stepped back into the hallway. The limited light cast long shadows. The narrow staircase ahead of him looked like something that might lead to servants' quarters in the attic. The steps had no runner, just wood, so he padded up them as quietly as he could. The singing was getting closer now:

  "In that moment my sun was gone,

  And now the rain won't stop falling,

  In an endless spell of time,

  In the middle of a moment,

  And the moment can't move on . . ."

  Myron reached the landing. In lesser homes, this level might be considered an attic. Here the entire floor had been cleared out to make one expansive room that ran the length of the entire house. Again the lights were low, but the three big-screen televisions on the far end gave the room an eerie glow. All three sets were on sports--a major-league baseball game, ESPN SportsCenter, an overseas basketball game. The volume had been muted. This was the ultimate adult playroom. In the dim light, Myron saw a HorsePower pinball machine. There was a well-stocked mahogany bar with six bar stools and a smoky mirror. The floor was dotted with what looked like upscale beanbag chairs, huge ones, big enough to house an orgy.

  One of the beanbag chairs sat center of the three televisions. Myron could see the silhouette of a head. There were bottles of what Myron assumed was booze on the floor next to him.

  "Now you're gone too,

  And out in the rain, time stands still,

  Without you, time stands--"

  The music stopped as though someone had switched it off. Myron could see the man in the beanbag stiffen--or maybe that was his imagination. Myron wasn't sure what to do here--call out, approach slowly, just wait?--but the decision was soon made for him.

  The man in the beanbag chair stumbled to a stand. He turned toward Myron, the glow from the televisions keeping him a dark silhouette. More as a reaction than anything else, Myron moved his hand toward the weapon in his pocket.

  The man said, "Hey, Myron."

  It wasn't Gabriel Wire.


  He was teetering, probably from drink. If Lex was surprised to see Myron here, he wasn't showing it. His reactions had probably been dulled by the bottle. Lex spread his arms and moved toward Myron. Myron came toward him, nearly catching Lex as he collapsed into Myron's arms. Lex dug his face into Myron's shoulder. Myron held him up.

  Through the tears, Lex kept repeating, "My fault. It's all my fault."

  Myron tried to comfort and hush him. It took some time. Lex reeked of whiskey. Myron let him cry it out. He moved Lex toward a bar stool and perched him on it. In his Bluetoothed ear, Myron could hear Win say, "I had to put the security guard down. Safely, don't worry. But you might want to pick up the pace here."

  Myron nodded as though Win could see him. Lex was pretty wasted. Myron decided to skip the preliminaries and get right to it. "Why did you call Suzze?"


  "Lex, I don't have time for this, so please listen up. Suzze received a call from you yesterday morning. After that, she ran off to see Kitty and Alista Snow's father. Then she came back home and overdosed. What did you say?"

  He started sobbing again. "It was my fault."

  "What did you say, Lex?"

  "I took my own advice."

  "What advice?"

  "I told you. At Three Downing. Remember?"

  Myron did. "No secrets from the one you love."

  "Exactly." He swayed from the booze. "So I told my true love the truth. After all these years. I should have told her years ago but I figured that somehow, Suzze always knew. You know what I mean?"

  Myron didn't have a clue.

  "Like deep down I thought she always knew the truth. Like it wasn't all a coincidence."

  Oh man, it was tough to talk to a drunk. "What wasn't a coincidence, Lex?"

  "Us falling in love. Like it was preordained. Like she always knew the truth. You know, deep down inside. And maybe--who knows?--maybe she did. Subconsciously. Or maybe she fell for the music, not the man. Like the two are interwoven anyway. How do you separate the man from the music? Like that."

  "What did you tell her?"

  "The truth." Lex started to cry again. "And now she's dead. I was wrong, Myron. The truth didn't set us free. The truth was too much to handle. That's the part I forgot. The truth can bring you closer together, but it can also be too much to bear."

  "What truth, Lex?"

  He started sobbing.

  "What did you tell Suzze?"

  "It doesn't matter. She's dead. What's the difference now?"

  Myron decided to shift gears. "Do you remember my brother, Brad?"

  Lex stopped crying. He looked confused now.

  "I think my brother might be in trouble because of all this."

  "Because of what I said to Suzze?"

  "Yes. Maybe. That's why I'm here."

  "Because of your brother?" He thought about it. "I can't see how. Oh, wait." He stopped and said something that made Myron's blood chill. "Yes. I guess, even after all these years, it could have led back to your brother."


  Lex shook his head. "My Suzze . . ."

  "Please, Lex, tell me what you told her."

  More sobbing. More shaking of his head. Myron had to move him along.

  "Suzze was in love with Gabriel Wire, wasn't she?"

  Lex sniffled some more, wiped his nose with his shirt sleeve. "How did you know?"

  "The tattoo."

  He nodded. "Suzze drew that, you know."

  "I know."

  "It was Hebrew and Gallic letters combined into a love sonnet. Suzze was so artistic."

  "So they were lovers?"

  He frowned now. "She thought that I didn't know. That was her secret. She loved him." Lex's voice turned bitter. "Everyone loves Gabriel Wire. Do you know how old Suzze was when she started up with him?"

  "Sixteen," Myron said.

  Lex nodded. "Wire always liked to seduce the young ones. Not prepubescent. He wasn't into that. Just young. So he let Suzze and Kitty and some of the other tennis girls party with us. The famous with the famous. Rock star with tennis starlet. A match made in celebrity heaven. Me, I never paid much attention to them. Enough girls around so that you didn't need someone illegal, you know what I mean?"

  "I do," Myron said. "I found a photograph from the Live Wire shoot. Gabriel had the same tattoo as Suzze."

  "That?" Lex snickered. "It was temporary. He just wanted a famous notch on his belt. Suzze was so smitten with him she stuck by him even after he killed Alista Snow."


  "Hold up," Myron said. "Did you just say Gabriel killed Alista Snow?"

  "You didn't know? Of course. Got her doped up on roofies. But he didn't give her enough, dumb bastard. He raped her and then she totally freaked out. Said she was going to tell. In Wire's defense--and no, it's not a defense--he was stoned out of his mind too. He pushed her off the balcony. It's all on videotape."


  "The room had a security camera."

  "Who has the videotape now?"

  He shook his head. "I can't tell you that."

  But Myron already knew, so he just said it: "Herman Ache."

  Lex didn't respond. He didn't have to. It added up, of course. It was pretty much just what Myron had thought.

  "We both owed Ache big," Lex said. "Mostly Gabriel--but he used HorsePower as collateral. He had one of his men with us all the time. To protect his investment."

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