Live wire, p.4
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       Live Wire, p.4

         Part #10 of Myron Bolitar series by Harlan Coben
 

  So Myron Bolitar, the superior athlete, was able to snatch a wrist mid-blow. He pulled the man toward him and using that momentum, threw a forearm into the man's face.

  The man went down.

  More screams now. More panic. Myron turned, and in the rush of people, he saw the Maybe-Kitty by the door. He started toward her, but she vanished behind an onslaught of bouncers, including two of the guys who'd given Myron a hard time on the way in. The bouncers--and there were a lot of them now--headed straight toward Myron.

  Uh-oh.

  "Whoa, fellas, slow down here." Myron lifted his hands, showing that he had no intention of fighting them. As they drew closer, Myron kept his hands up. "Someone else started it."

  One tried to get him in a full nelson, an amateur move if ever there was one. Myron calmly slipped out of it and said, "It's over, okay? It's--"

  Three more bouncers tackled him hard. Myron hit the floor with a thud. One of the guys from out front climbed on top of him. Someone else kicked Myron's legs. The guy on top of him tried to put his bloated forearm on Myron's throat. Myron ducked his chin, blocking it. The guy tried harder, moving his face close enough for Myron to smell the guy's stale hot-dog breath. Another kick. The face came closer. Myron rolled hard, catching the guy's face with his elbow. The man cursed and backed off.

  As Myron started to rise, he felt something hard and metallic push against the bottom of his rib cage. He had a tenth of a second, maybe two, to wonder what it was. Then Myron's heart exploded.

  At least, that was what it felt like. It felt like something in his chest had just gone boom, like someone had placed live wires on every nerve ending, sending his parasympathetic system into total spasm. His legs turned to water. His arms dropped away, unable to offer up the least bit of resistance.

  A stun gun.

  Myron dropped like a fish on a dock. He looked up and saw Kleavage Kyle grinning down at him. Kyle released the trigger. The pain stopped, but only for a second. With his fellow bouncers surrounding him so no one in the club could see, Kyle dug the stun gun back into Myron's lower rib cage and zapped him again. Myron's scream was muffled by a hand closing over his mouth.

  "Two million volts," Kyle whispered.

  Myron knew something about stun guns and Tasers. You are only supposed to hold the trigger for a few seconds, no more, so as to incapacitate but not seriously injure. But Kyle, maniacal smile on high, did not let up. He kept the trigger pressed down. The pain increased, became overwhelming. Myron's whole body started to quake and buck. Kyle kept his finger on the trigger. Even one of the bouncers said, "Uh, Kyle?" But Kyle held on until Myron's eyes rolled back and there was blackness.

  6

  What must have been seconds later, Myron felt someone pick him up and carry him fireman-style over a shoulder. His eyes remained closed, his body limp. He was on the cusp of unconsciousness, but he was still aware of where he was, what was happening to him. His nerve endings were shot. He felt exhausted and shaky. The man carrying him was big and muscular. He heard the club music start up again and a voice over the sound system shouted, "Okay, folks, the freak show is ovah! Let's get back to the par-tay!"

  Myron remained still, letting the man carry him. He didn't resist. He used the time to regroup, recover, start to plan. A door opened and closed, smothering the music. Myron could feel the brighter light through his closed eyes.

  The big man carrying him said, "We should just toss him outside now, right, Kyle? I think he's had enough, don't you?"

  It was the same voice that said, "Uh, Kyle," when Myron had been getting zapped. The voice had just a lilt of fear in it. Myron did not like that.

  Kyle said, "Put him down, Brian."

  Brian did so with surprising gentleness. Lying on the cold floor, his eyes not yet opened, Myron did some quick calculating and knew what his next steps were: Keep your eyes closed, pretend you've totally blacked out--and then slowly start snaking your hand toward the BlackBerry device in your pocket.

  Back in the nineties, when cell phones were just starting to become the norm, Myron and Win had developed a techno-savvy and occasionally life-saving mode of communication: When one or the other of them was in trouble (read: Myron), he would hit his speed-dial #1 button on his cell phone and the other (read: Win) would pick up, put the phone on mute, and listen in or rush to or at least help the other. At the time, fifteen years ago, this trick had been cutting edge; today it was about as cutting edge as a Betamax.

  That meant, of course, taking it to the next level. Now, with modern breakthroughs, Myron and Win could have each other's back in a much more efficient way. One of Win's tech experts had enhanced their BlackBerrys so that they had a special two-way satellite radio that worked even in spots where there was no cell service, as well as both audio and visual recording devices, and a GPS tracker so that one knew exactly where the other was, within four feet, at any given moment--all of which could be activated anytime with the push of a button.

  Ergo the snaking hand heading toward the BlackBerry in his pocket. With his eyes closed, he faked a groan so he could roll just enough to get his hand closer to the pocket. . . .

  "Looking for this?"

  It was Kleavage Kyle. Myron blinked open his eyes. The floor of the room was Formica and maroon. The walls too were maroon. There was one table with what looked liked a box of Kleenex on it. No other furniture. Myron turned his gaze toward Kyle. Kyle was grinning.

  He was also holding up Myron's BlackBerry.

  "Thanks," Myron said. "I was looking for that. You can just toss it over here."

  "Oh, I don't think so."

  There were three other bouncers in the room, all with shaved heads, all steroid-and-too-much-gym huge. Myron spotted one who looked a little frightened and figured that had been his carrier, so to speak. The frightened guy said, "I better head back out to the front, make sure everything is okay."

  Kyle said, "You do that, Brian."

  "Seriously, his friend, that hot chick wrestler, knows he's here."

  "Don't worry about her," Kyle said.

  "I would," Myron said.

  "Excuse me?"

  Myron tried to sit up. "You don't watch much TV, do you, Kyle? You know that part of the show where they triangulate the cell phone signal and find the guy? Well, that's what's happening here. I don't know how much longer it will take but--"

  Holding the BlackBerry up, his expression two steps past smug, Kyle hit the off button and watched the device power down. "You were saying?"

  Myron did not reply. Frightened Big Guy left.

  "First," Kyle said, tossing Myron back his wallet, "please escort Mr. Bolitar from the premises. We request that you never return."

  "Even if I promise not to wear a shirt?"

  "My two men will escort you out the back entrance."

  This was a curious development--letting him go. Myron decided to play it out, see if it was going to be this easy. He was, to put it kindly, skeptical. The two men helped lift Myron to his feet. "What about my BlackBerry?"

  "You can have it back when you exit the premises," Kyle said.

  One man held Myron's right arm, the other the left. They led him into the corridor. Kyle followed, closing the door behind them. When they were all out of the room, Kyle said, "Okay, good, that should do it. Bring him back in."

  Myron frowned. Kyle opened the same door again. The two men gripped Myron harder and started dragging him back into the room. When Myron resisted, Kyle showed him the stun gun. "You want another two million volts?"

  Myron did not. He moved back to the maroon room. "What was that all about?"

  "That part was for show," Kyle said. "Please move to the far corner." When Myron didn't obey immediately, he flashed the stun gun. Myron inched backward, not turning his back on Kyle. There was a small table by the door. Kyle and the two bouncers moved toward it. They reached into what looked like a box of tissues and pulled out surgical gloves. Myron watched them slip the gloves onto their hands.

 
"Let me just state for the record," Myron said, "that I'm getting a little turned on by the rubber gloves. Will this involve my bending over?"

  "Defense mechanism," Kyle said, snapping the gloves on with a little too much zeal.

  "What?"

  "You use humor as a defense mechanism. The more frightened you are, the more your mouth flaps."

  Bouncer-cum-therapist, Myron thought, perhaps proving the man's point.

  "So let me explain the situation so even you'll understand," Kyle said in a singsong tone. "We call this the beating room. Hence the maroon color. The blood blends in, as you will soon see."

  Kyle stopped and smiled. Myron kept still.

  "We just videotaped you leaving this room under your own volition. As you may have guessed, the camera is now off. So that's the official record--you leaving of your own accord, relatively unharmed. We also have witnesses who will state that you assaulted them, that our response was proportional to the threat you posed, that you initiated the ruckus. We have longtime club patrons and employees who will pretty much sign any statement we put in front of them. No one will back up any claim you have. Any questions?"

  "Just one," Myron said. "Did you really use the word 'ruckus'?"

  Kyle stayed with the grin. "Defense mechanism," he said again.

  The three men spread out, fists tightened, muscles at the ready. Myron moved a little farther into the corner.

  "So what's your plan here, Kyle?" Myron asked.

  "It's pretty simple, Myron. We are going to hurt you. How badly depends on how much you resist. At best, you're going to end up hospitalized. You will be pissing blood for a while. We may break a bone or two. But you will live and probably recover. If you resist, I will use the stun gun to paralyze you. It will be very painful. And then your beating will be longer and more savage. Am I making myself clear?"

  They started to inch closer. Their hands flexed. One cracked his neck. Kleavage Kyle actually took off his jacket. "I don't want to get it dirty," he explained. "What with the blood stains and all."

  Myron pointed lower. "What about your pants?"

  Kyle was topless now. He did that flex thing where you make your pecs dance. "Don't worry about them."

  "Oh, but I do," Myron said.

  Then, as the men inched closer, Myron smiled and crossed his arms. The move made the men pause. Then Myron said, "Did I tell you about my new BlackBerry? The GPS feature? The two-way satellite radio? It all works when you press one button."

  "Your BlackBerry," Kyle said, "is off."

  Myron shook his head and made a buzzing noise as though he had heard the wrong answer on a game show. Win's voice came from the BlackBerry's tinny speaker: "No, Kyle, I'm afraid it's not."

  The three men stopped.

  "So let me explain the situation," Myron said, doing his best Kyle singsong, "so even you'll understand. The button you have to press to activate all the newfangled features? You guessed it: It's the off button. In short, everything that's been said has been recorded. Plus the GPS is on. How far away are you, Win?"

  "Heading through the club entrance now. I also activated the three-way caller. Esperanza's on the line on mute. Esperanza?"

  The mute button was clicked off. The club music came through the phone speaker. Esperanza said, "I'm by the side door where they dragged Myron out. Oh, and guess what? I found an old friend here, a police officer named Roland Dimonte. Say hi to my friend Kyle, Rolly."

  The male voice said, "I better see Bolitar's ugly, untouched mug out here in thirty seconds, asswipe."

  It took more like twenty.

  "It might not have been her," Myron said.

  It was two A.M. by the time Myron and Win got back to the Dakota. They sat in a room rich people called "a study," with Louis the Something wood furniture and marble busts and a large antique globe and bookshelves with leather-bound first editions. Myron sat in a burgundy chair with gold buttons on the arm. By the time things had calmed down at the club, Kitty had vanished, if she'd ever been there in the first place. Lex and Buzz had cleared out too.

  Win opened a leather-bound first-edition false front bookcase to reveal a refrigerator. He grabbed a Yoo-hoo chocolate drink and tossed it to Myron. Myron caught it, and reading the directions--"Shake It!"--did just that. Win opened the decanter and poured himself an exclusive cognac called, interestingly enough, The Last Drop.

  "I could have been wrong," Myron said.

  Win lifted his snifter and checked it against the light.

  "I mean, it's been sixteen years, right? Her hair was a different color. The room was dark and I saw her for only a second. So really, when I add it up, it might not have been her."

  "It might not have been she," Win said. "Subject pronoun."

  Win.

  "And it was Kitty," Win said.

  "How do you know?"

  "I know you. You don't make those kinds of mistakes. Other mistakes, yes. But not those kind."

  Win took a sip of cognac. Myron splashed down some of the Yoo-hoo. Cold, chocolaty, sweet nectar. Three years ago Myron had all but given up this, his favorite beverage, in favor of boutique coffees that eat away the stomach lining. When he returned home from the stress of being overseas, he started up again with Yoo-hoo, more for the comfort than the actual taste. Now he loved it again.

  "On the one hand, it doesn't matter," Myron said. "Kitty hasn't been part of my life for a long time."

  Win nodded. "And on the other hand?"

  Brad. That was what the other hand, the first hand, both hands, every hand--the chance, after all these years, to see and maybe reconcile with his baby brother. Myron took a moment, shifted his seat. Win watched and said nothing. Eventually Myron said, "It can't be a coincidence. Kitty in the same nightclub--same VIP room even--as Lex."

  "It would seem unlikely," Win said. "So what's our next step?

  "Find Lex. Find Kitty."

  Myron stared at the Yoo-hoo label and wondered, not for the first time, what the heck "dairy whey" was. The mind stalls. It dodges, weaves, finds irrelevancies on soda cans, all in the hopes of avoiding the unavoidable. He thought about when he first tried this drink, in that house in Livingston, New Jersey, he now owned, how Brad always had to have one too because Brad always wanted to do what big brother, Myron, did. He thought about the hours he shot baskets in the backyard, letting Brad have the honor of fetching him rebounds so Myron could concentrate on shooting. Myron spent so many hours out there, shooting, moving, getting the pass from Brad, shooting again, moving, hours and hours alone, and while Myron did not regret one moment of it, he had to wonder about his priorities--the priorities of most top athletes. What we so admire and call "single-minded dedication" was really "obsessive self-involvement." What in that exactly is admirable?

  An alarm clock beeping--a truly grating ringtone the BlackBerry people had for some reason labeled "Antelope"--interrupted them. Myron glanced down at his BlackBerry and flicked off the offending noise.

  "You might as well take that," Win said, standing. "I have somewhere to go anyway."

  "At two thirty A.M.? You want to tell me her name?"

  Win smiled. "Maybe later."

  Given the demand for the one computer in the area, two thirty A.M., Eastern Daylight Time--seven thirty A.M. in Angola--was pretty much the only time that Myron could get his fiancee, Terese Collins, alone, if only technologically.

  Myron signed on to Skype, the Internet equivalent of a videophone, and waited. A moment later, a video box came up and Terese appeared. He felt the heady rush and the lightness in his chest.

  "God, you're beautiful," he said to her.

  "Good opening line."

  "I always open with that line."

  "It doesn't get old."

  Terese looked great, sitting at the desk in a white blouse, hands folded so that he could see the engagement ring, her bottle-brunette hair--she was normally a blonde--pulled back into a ponytail.

  After a few minutes, Myron said, "I was with a client tonight."


  "Who?"

  "Lex Ryder."

  "The lesser half of HorsePower?"

  "I like him. He's a good guy. Anyway, he said the secret of a good marriage is being open."

  "I love you," she said.

  "I love you too."

  "I didn't mean to interrupt, but I love that I can just blurt that out. I never had that before. I'm too old to feel this way."

  "We are always eighteen, waiting for our lives to begin," Myron said.

  "That's corny."

  "You're a sucker for corny."

  "True enough. So Lex Ryder said we should be open. Aren't we?"

  "I don't know. He had this theory on flaws. That we should reveal them to each other--the worst things about us--because somehow that makes us more human and thus closer."

  Myron gave her a few more details from the conversation. When he was done, Terese said, "Makes sense."

  "Do I know yours?" he asked.

  "Myron, remember when we first got to that hotel room in Paris?"

  Silence. He remembered.

  "So yeah," she said softly, "you know my flaws."

  "I guess I do." He shifted in his seat, trying to meet her eyes by gazing straight into the camera. "I'm not sure you know all mine."

  "Flaws?" she said, feigning shock. "What flaws?"

  "I'm pee shy, for one."

  "And you think I don't know that?"

  He laughed a little too hard.

  "Myron?"

  "Yes."

  "I love you. I can't wait to be your wife. You're a good man, maybe the best man I've ever known. The truth won't change that. Whatever you're not telling me? It may fester or whatever Lex said. Or it may not. Honesty can be overrated too. So don't torment yourself. I will love you either way."

  Myron sat back. "Do you know how great you are?"

  "I don't care. Tell me how beautiful I am again. I'm a sucker for that."

  7

  Three Downing was closing up for the night. Win watched the patrons stumble outside, blinking in the unnatural light of Manhattan at four A.M. He waited. After a few minutes he spotted the large man who had used the stun gun on Myron. The large man--Kyle--was tossing someone out as though he were a bag of laundry. Win stayed calm. He thought back to a time not that long ago when Myron had vanished for weeks, was tortured probably, a time when he, Win, couldn't help his best friend or even avenge him after the fact. Win remembered the horrible feeling of powerlessness. He hadn't felt that way since his youth in the wealthy suburbs on Philadelphia's Main Line, since those who hated him on sight tormented and beat him. Win had sworn back then that he would never feel that way again. Then he did something about it. Now, as an adult, the same rule held.