Live wire, p.27
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       Live Wire, p.27

         Part #10 of Myron Bolitar series by Harlan Coben
 
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  Win raised the barrel so that it pointed at Crisp's forehead. "Any final words?" Crisp's eyes darted like scattered birds. He spun his head around, hoping to find a reprieve in Myron. And then, looking up at Myron, Crisp made one last desperate move: "I saved your godson's life."

  Even Win seemed to catch his breath. Myron moved closer to Crisp, bent down so that they were face-to-face. "What are you talking about?"

  "We had a good thing going," Crisp said. "We were all making a lot of money and, really, who were we hurting? And then Lex gets religion and ruins it. After all the years, why the hell did he open his mouth to Suzze? How did he think Herman would react to that?"

  "So you were sent to silence her," Myron said.

  Crisp nodded. "So I flew into Jersey City. I waited in the garage and grabbed her when she parked. I put my gun against her belly and made her take the stairs. There are no security cameras there. It took a while. When we got up to the penthouse, I told her to overdose on the heroin or, pow, I'd shoot her in the head. I wanted to make it look like an accident or suicide. I could do it with the gun, but it would be easier with the drugs. With her past, the cops would buy an OD easy."

  "But Suzze wouldn't shoot up," Myron said.

  "That's right. Suzze wanted to make a deal instead."

  Myron could almost see it now. Suzze with the gun on her, not blinking. He'd been right. She wouldn't just kill herself. She wouldn't obey an order like that, even at gunpoint. "What kind of deal?"

  Crisp risked a glance back at Win. He knew that Win wasn't bluffing, that Win had concluded that it would be too dangerous to let Crisp live. Still, no matter what the odds, man scrambles to survive. This revelation was Crisp's version of the last-second Hail Mary pass, his attempt to show enough humanity so that Myron would persuade Win not to pull the trigger.

  Myron remembered the 9-1-1 call from the accented maintenance man. "Suzze agreed to overdose on the heroin," Myron said, "if you called nine-one-one."

  Crisp nodded.

  How had he not seen it before? You couldn't force Suzze to take the heroin. She too would scramble to save her life. Except under one condition.

  "Suzze would do what you asked," Myron went on, "under the condition that you gave her child a chance to live."

  "Yes," Crisp said. "We made a deal. I promised to make the call the moment she shot up."

  Myron's heart broke anew. He could almost see Suzze coming to the realization that if she were shot in the head, her unborn son would die with her. So yes, she had scrambled, not to save herself, but to save her child. Somehow she had found a way. It was risky. If she died from the overdose right away, so might the baby. But at least it gave him a chance. Suzze probably knew how heroin overdoses work, how they slowly shut down the system, that there would be time.

  "And you kept your promise?"

  "Yes."

  Myron asked the obvious question: "Why?"

  Crisp shrugged and countered with: "Why not? There was no reason to kill an innocent baby if I didn't have to."

  The morals of a killer. So now Myron knew. They had come here for answers. There was only one more he needed now. "Tell me about my brother."

  "I told you already. I don't know anything about that."

  "You went after Kitty."

  "Sure. Once she came back and started making noise, we tried to find her. But I don't know a thing about your brother. I swear."

  With those last words, Win pulled the trigger and shot Evan Crisp in the head. Myron jumped back, startled by the sound. Blood oozed out onto the oriental carpet as the body slumped to the ground. Win did a quick check, but there was no need for a second shot. Herman Ache and Evan Crisp were both dead.

  "Us or them," Win said.

  Myron just stared. "So now what?"

  "Now," Win said, "you go to your father."

  "What are you going to do?"

  "Don't worry about it. You may not see me for a while. But I'll be fine."

  "What do you mean, not see you for a while? You're not taking the heat for this alone."

  "Yes, I am."

  "But I'm here too."

  "No, you're not. I've taken care of it. Take my car. I'll find a way to communicate but you won't see me for a while."

  Myron wanted to argue, but he knew it would only delay and possibly endanger the inevitable.

  "How long?"

  "I don't know. We had no choice here. There was no way these two would have let us live. You have to see that."

  Myron did. He also saw now why Win hadn't told him. Myron would have looked for another way when, in truth, there wasn't one. When Win visited Frank Ache in prison, they promised to exchange favors. Win had made good on it and saved them in the process.

  "Go," Win said. "It's over now."

  Myron shook his head. "It's not over," he said. "Not until I find Brad."

  "Crisp was telling the truth," Win said. "Whatever danger your brother was in, it had nothing to do with this."

  "I know," Myron said.

  They had come here for answers and now Myron thought that maybe he really did know them all.

  "Go," Win said.

  Myron hugged Win. Win hugged back. The hug was fierce and tight and lasted a long time. No words were exchanged--they would have just been superfluous. But Myron remembered what Win had said after Suzze first came to his office looking for help, about our tendency to think good things will last forever. They don't. We think that we will always be young, that the moments and people we cherish are everlasting. But they're not. As Myron held his friend in his arms, he knew that nothing would ever be the same between them. Something in their relationship had changed. Something was gone forever.

  When the hug finally ended, Myron headed back down the corridor and changed back into his clothes. Beefy was there. The other two goons were gone. Myron didn't know about their fate. He didn't much care. Beefy nodded at Myron. Myron walked over to Beefy and said, "I need one more favor." He told Beefy what he wanted. Beefy looked surprised but he said, "Give me a minute." He disappeared into the other room, came back, handed Myron what he had asked for. Myron thanked him. He headed outside, slipped into Win's car, and started it up.

  It was almost over.

  He was a mile down the road when Esperanza called him. "Your father's awake," she said. "He wants to see you."

  "Tell him I love him."

  "You're on your way?"

  "No," he said. "I can't come yet. Not until I do what he asked."

  Then Myron hung up the phone and started to cry.

  33

  Christine Shippee met Myron in the lobby of the Coddington Rehabilitation Institute.

  "You look like death warmed over," Christine said. "And when you think about what I see in here every day, that's saying something."

  "I need to talk to Kitty."

  "I told you on the phone. You can't. You trusted me to take care of her."

  "I need information."

  "Tough."

  "At the risk of sounding melodramatic, it may be a matter of life and death."

  "Correct me if I'm wrong," Christine said, "but you called me for help, right?"

  "Yes."

  "And you knew the rules when you put her in here, right?"

  "I did. And I want her to get help. We both know she needs it. But right now my father may be dying, and he's looking for me to get some final answers."

  "And you think Kitty has them?"

  "Yes."

  "She's a mess right now. You know how my protocol works. The first forty-eight hours are pure hell. She won't be able to concentrate. All she'll want is a fix."

  "I know that."

  Christine shook her head. "You got ten minutes." She buzzed him in and started leading him down a corridor. There wasn't a sound. As though reading his mind, Christine Shippee said, "All the rooms are totally soundproof."

  When they reached Kitty's door, Myron said, "One more thing."

  Christine waited.

  "I need to talk
to her alone," Myron said.

  "No."

  "The conversation has to be confidential."

  "I won't tell a soul."

  "For legal reasons," Myron said. "If you hear something and one day you're called to testify, I don't want you lying under oath."

  "My God. What are you going to ask her?"

  Myron said nothing.

  "She may freak out on you," Christine said. "She may grow violent."

  "I'm a big boy."

  She thought about it another minute. Then she sighed, unlocked the door, and said, "You're on your own."

  Myron entered. Kitty lay on the bed, half asleep maybe, whimpering. He closed the door behind her and moved toward the bed. He flicked on a lamp. Kitty had the sweats in a big, bad way. She blinked into the light.

  "Myron?"

  "It's time for the lies to end," he said.

  "I need a fix, Myron. You have no idea what this is like."

  "You saw them kill Gabriel Wire."

  "Them?" She looked puzzled, but then, as though thinking better of it, she caved and said, "Yes. I saw. I went to deliver a message for Suzze. She still loved him. She still had his key. I sneaked in a side entrance. I heard the gun go off and I hid."

  "That was why you needed to run off with my brother. You needed to escape because you were afraid for your life. Brad was on the fence. So you added that lie about me--to drive the final wedge between us. You told him that I made a pass at you."

  "Please," she said, grabbing at him desperately. "Myron, I need a fix so bad. Just one more and then I'll let them help me. I promise."

  Myron tried to keep her focused. He knew that he didn't have much time. "I don't really care what you told Suzze either, but I imagine you just confirmed what Lex told her--that Wire had been killed all those years ago. You posted that 'Not His' message to get revenge and to send Lex a message that he better help you out."

  "I just needed a few dollars. I was desperate."

  "Yeah, terrific. And it cost Suzze her life."

  She started crying.

  "But none of that matters anymore," Myron said. "Right now I only care about one thing."

  Kitty squeezed her eyes shut. "I won't talk."

  "Open your eyes, Kitty."

  "No."

  "Open your eyes."

  She peeked out like a child through one eye--then both flew open wide. Myron dangled the heroin in the clear plastic bag in front of her--the bag he'd gotten not long ago from Beefy. Kitty tried to snatch it from his hand, but he pulled away just in time. She started clawing at him, screaming for it, but he pushed her back.

  "You tell me the truth," Myron said. "And I will give you the bag."

  "Do you promise?"

  "I promise."

  She started crying. "I miss Brad so much."

  "I know you do. That's why you started using again, right? You couldn't face life without him. Like Mickey said, some couples aren't built to be apart." And then, with tears running down his cheeks, still thinking about that five-year-old cheering his lungs out at Yankee Stadium, Myron said, "Brad is dead, isn't he?"

  She couldn't move. She collapsed back on the bed, her eyes staring up, unseeing.

  "How did he die, Kitty?"

  Kitty stayed on her back, her gaze on the ceiling trancelike. When she finally spoke, her voice was a faraway monotone. "He and Mickey were on Interstate Five heading down to an AAU game in San Diego. An SUV lost control and crossed the divider. Brad died on impact--right in front of his son. Mickey spent three weeks in the hospital."

  So there it was. Myron had braced himself--had known that something like this was coming--but the confirmation still sent him reeling. He collapsed into a chair on the other side of the room. His baby brother was dead. In the end, it had nothing to do with Herman Ache or Gabriel Wire or even Kitty. It had just been a car accident.

  It was almost too much to bear.

  Myron looked across the room. Kitty was motionless now, the quakes momentarily gone. "Why didn't you tell us?"

  "You know why."

  He did. He knew because that was how he put it together. Kitty had gotten the idea from Gabriel Wire. She had seen him killed--but more important, she saw how Lex and the others had pretended that he was alive. She learned from that.

  Pretending Wire was alive gave her the idea to pretend Brad was too.

  "You would have tried to take Mickey away from me," Kitty said.

  Myron shook his head.

  "When your brother died"--she stopped, swallowed hard--"I was like a marionette and suddenly someone cut all my strings. I fell apart."

  "You could have come to me."

  "Wrong. I knew exactly what would happen if I told you about Brad. You'd have come out to Los Angeles. You'd have seen me strung out--just like you did yesterday. Don't lie, Myron. Not now. You'd want to do what you thought was right again. You'd have petitioned the court for custody. You'd say--just like you did yesterday--that I'm an irresponsible junkie, unfit to raise Mickey. You'd have taken my boy away from me. Don't deny it."

  He wouldn't. "So your answer was to pretend that Brad was still alive?"

  "It worked, didn't it?"

  "And to hell with Mickey and what he needed?"

  "He needed his mother. How do you not get that?"

  But he did. He remembered how Mickey kept telling him what a great mother she was. "And what about us? What about Brad's family?"

  "What family? Mickey and I are his family. None of you had been a part of his life in fifteen years."

  "And whose fault was that?"

  "Exactly, Myron. Whose?"

  He said nothing. He thought it was hers. She thought it was his. And his father . . . how had he put it? We come out a certain way. Brad, Dad had said, wasn't meant to stay home and settle down.

  But Dad had based that belief on Myron's lie.

  "I know you don't believe this. I know you think I lied and tricked him into running away with me. Maybe I did. But it was the right choice. Brad was happy. We were both happy."

  Myron remembered the photographs, the face-splitting smiles. He had thought that they were a lie, that the happiness he'd seen in those pictures was an illusion. They weren't. On that part, Kitty was right.

  "So yeah, that was my plan. Just to delay notification until I straightened myself out."

  Myron just shook his head.

  "You want me to apologize," Kitty said, "but I won't. Sometimes you do the right things and you get the wrong results. And sometimes, well, look at Suzze. She tried to sabotage my career by switching those birth control pills--and because of that I have Mickey. Don't you get that? It's all chaos. It's not about right or wrong. You hold on to the things you love most. I lost the love of my life to a freak accident. Was that fair? Was that right? And maybe if you'd been kinder, Myron. Maybe if you had accepted us I would have come to you for help."

  But Kitty hadn't come to him for help--not then, not now. The ripples again. Maybe he could have helped them fifteen years ago. Or maybe they would have run away anyway. Maybe if Kitty had trusted him, if he hadn't snapped when she got pregnant, she would have come to him instead of Lex a few days ago. Maybe then Suzze would still be alive. Maybe Brad would be too.

  Lots of maybes.

  "I have one more question," he said. "Did you ever tell Brad the truth?"

  "About you hitting on me? Yes. I told him it was a lie. He understood."

  Myron swallowed. His nerves felt raw, exposed. He heard the catch in his voice as he asked, "Did he forgive me?"

  "Yes, Myron. He forgave you."

  "But he never got in touch."

  "You don't understand our lives," Kitty said, her eyes on the bag in his hand. "We were nomads. We were happy that way. It was his life's work. It was what he loved, what he was meant to do. And now that we were back, I think he would have called you. But . . ."

  She stopped, shook her head, closed her eyes.

  It was time to go see his father now. He had the plastic bag
of heroin. He looked at it, unsure what to do.

  "You don't believe me," Kitty said. "About Brad forgiving you."

  Myron said nothing.

  "Didn't you find Mickey's passport?" Kitty asked.

  Myron was confused by the question. "I did. In the trailer."

  "Take a closer look at it," she said.

  "At the passport?"

  "Yes."

  "Why?"

  She kept her eyes closed and didn't reply. Myron took one more look at the heroin. He had made her a promise that he didn't want to keep. But now, as he held it back up, Kitty saved him from this one last moral dilemma.

  She shook her head and told him to leave.

  When Myron got back to Saint Barnabas Hospital, he slowly pushed open the door to Dad's room.

  It was dark, but he could see that Dad was sleeping. Mom sat next to his bed. She turned and saw Myron's face. And she knew. She let out a small cry, smothering it with her hand. Myron nodded at her. She rose, headed into the corridor.

  "Tell me," she said.

  And he did. Mom took the blow. She staggered, cried, put herself together. She hurried back into the room. Myron followed.

  Dad's eyes remained closed, his breathing raspy and uneven. Tubes seemed to snake out from everywhere. Mom sat back next to the bed. Her hand, shaking with Parkinson's, took his.

  "So," Mom said to Myron in a low voice. "We agree?"

  Myron did not reply.

  A few minutes later, his father's eyes fluttered open. Myron felt the tears push back into his eyes as he looked down at the man he treasured like no other. Dad looked up with pleading, almost childlike confusion.

  Dad managed to utter one word: "Brad . . ."

  Myron bit back the tears and prepared to tell the lie, but Mom put a hand on her son's arm to stop him. Their eyes met.

  "Brad," Dad said again, a little more agitated.

  Still looking at Myron, Mom shook her head. He understood. In the end, she didn't want Myron to lie to his father. That would be too much of a betrayal. She turned to her husband of forty-three years and held on to his hand firmly.

  Dad started to cry.

  "It's okay, Al," Mom said softly. "It's okay."

  Epilogue

  SIX WEEKS LATER

  Los Angeles, California

  Dad leaned on his cane and led the way.

  He had lost twenty pounds since the open-heart surgery. Myron had wanted him to use a wheelchair to get up this hill, but Al Bolitar would have none of that. He would walk to his son's final resting place.

 
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