Live wire, p.8
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       Live Wire, p.8

         Part #10 of Myron Bolitar series by Harlan Coben
 

  Myron tried not to sigh. "And--let me make sure I follow--the Plus blades won't last as long as the regular blades."

  "But"--Davis held up a finger and smiled widely--"it gives the consumer a comfort strip. The comfort strip will make it the most comfortable shave possible. It is like a spa for your face."

  "A spa where the refills will have to be changed once a week rather than once a month."

  "It's a wonderful product. Ricky will love it."

  Myron would make a moral stand here, but, well, nah. His job was to represent his client's best interest, and in the case of endorsements, that meant getting said client the most money possible. Yes, there were always ethical questions to consider. Yes, he would tell Ricky exactly what was up with the Plus versus the regular model. But it was Ricky's decision and there was little doubt if it meant more money, he would and should go for it. One could spend a lot of time bemoaning how this was clearly an attempt to con the public via advertising, but one would be hard-pressed to find any product or marketing campaign that did not do exactly that.

  "So," Myron said, "you want to hire Ricky to endorse the new product."

  "What do you mean, hire?" Davis looked deeply offended. "He's already under contract."

  "But now you want him to redo the commercials. For the new Plus blades."

  "Well, yes, of course."

  "So I'm thinking," Myron said, "that Ricky should get twenty percent more money for the new commercial."

  "Twenty percent more how?"

  "Twenty percent over what you paid him to endorse the Shear Delight Seven."

  "What?" Davis shouted, hand to heart as though warding off a heart attack. "Are you kidding? It's practically a reshoot of the first. Our lawyers say that under the contract, we can ask him to do the reshoot and not pay one cent more."

  "Your lawyers are wrong."

  "Come on. Let's be reasonable. We are generous people, aren't we? Because of that--even though, really, we shouldn't--we can give him a ten percent bonus over what he's already getting."

  "Not enough," Myron said.

  "You're joking, right? I know you. You're a funny guy, Myron. You're being funny right now, right?"

  "Ricky is happy with the razor as it is," Myron said. "If you wish to have him endorse a whole new product with a whole new marketing campaign, he will certainly need to make more money."

  "More? Are you out of your mind?"

  "He won Shear's Stubble Destroyer's Man of the Year. That upped his worth."

  "What?" Total outrage now. "We gave him that award!"

  And so it goes.

  Half an hour later, when Michael Davis left cursing under his breath, Esperanza came into Myron's office.

  "I found Lex's friend Buzz."

  10

  Adiona Island is exactly five miles wide, exactly two miles long, and, as Win once put it, the "epicenter of the WASP." It is located a scant four miles off the coast of Massachusetts. According to the Census Bureau, 211 people inhabited the island year-round. That number grew--it was hard to say by how much but it was at least several fold--during the summer months as the blue bloods from Connecticut, Philadelphia, and New York flocked in by jet or ferry. Recently, the Adiona Golf Course was named one of the top twenty-five courses by Golf Magazine. This upset rather than pleased the club members because Adiona Island was their private world. They don't want you to visit or even know about the island. Yes, there was a "public" ferry, but the ferry was small, the departure schedule hard to figure out, and if you somehow managed to get there, the beaches and pretty much all land on the island were private and guarded. There was only one restaurant on Adiona Island, the Teapot Lodge, and it was more of a drinking pub than an eatery. There was one food market, one general store, one church. There were no hotels or inns or anyplace to stay. The mansions, most with cute names like Tippy's Cottage or The Waterbury or Triangle House, were both spectacular and understated. If you wanted to buy one, you could--this was a free country--but you wouldn't be welcomed, wouldn't be allowed to join the "club," wouldn't be allowed on the tennis courts or the beaches and you would be discouraged from patronizing the Teapot Lodge. You had to be invited onto this private enclave or agree to go it alone as a social outcast--and pretty much no one chose to go it alone. The island was kept secure less by real guards and more with Old-World scowls of disapproval.

  With no true restaurant, how did the well-heeled dine? They ate meals prepared by help. Dinner parties were the norm, almost in rotation, Bab's turn and then a night at Fletcher's place and maybe Conrad's yacht on Friday and, well, Windsor's estate on Saturday. If you summer here--and one clue might be that you use the word "summer" as a verb--chances are your father and grandfather summered here too. The air was heavy with ocean spray and eau du blue blood.

  On either side of the island, there were two mysterious, fencedoff areas. One was near the grass tennis courts and owned by the military. No one knew exactly what went on there, but the rumors of covert operations and Roswell-type secrecy were endless.

  The other secluded enclave was on the southern tip of the island. The land was owned by Gabriel Wire, the eccentric, ultra-reclusive lead singer of HorsePower. Wire's compound was bathed in secrecy--a full twenty-one acres protected by security guards and the latest in surveillance technology. Wire was the exception on this island. He seemed fine alone, secluded, an outcast. In fact, Myron thought, Gabriel Wire insisted upon it.

  Over the years, if rumors were to be believed, the island's blue bloods had pretty much accepted the reclusive rocker. Some claim that they see Gabriel Wire shopping at the market. Others say that he often swam, either alone or with only a stunning beauty, on a quiet strip of beach in the later afternoons. Like much with Gabriel Wire, nothing could be confirmed.

  The only real approach to Wire's compound was a dirt road with about five thousand Keep Out signs and a guard booth with a drop arm. Myron ignored the signs because he was a crazy rulebreaker like that. Upon arrival via private boat, he had borrowed the car, a totally rad Wiesmann Roadster MF5 with retail price over a quarter of a million dollars, from Baxter Lockwood, Win's cousin, who had a place on Adiona Island. Myron debated driving straight through the drop arm, but ol' Bax might not appreciate the scratches.

  The guard looked up from his paperback. He sported a severe crew cut and aviator sunglasses and had a hard military bearing. Myron gave him a five-finger toodle-oo wave and Smile Seventeen--charmingly shy via early Matt Damon. Pretty dazzling.

  The guard said, "Turn around and leave."

  Mistake. Smile Seventeen only worked on da ladies. "If you were a lady, you'd be dazzled right now."

  "By the smile? Oh, I am. On the inside. Turn around and leave."

  "Aren't you supposed to call the house and make sure I'm not expected?"

  "Oh." The guard made a phone with his fingers and mimed a conversation. Then he hung up his fingers and said, "Turn around and leave."

  "I'm here to see Lex Ryder."

  "I don't think so."

  "My name is Myron Bolitar."

  "Should I genuflect?"

  "I'd prefer it if you just lift the drop arm."

  The guard put down his book and slowly made his way to his feet. "I don't think so, Myron."

  Myron had expected something like this. Over the past sixteen years, since the death of a young woman named Alista Snow, only a handful of people had even seen Gabriel Wire. Back then, when the tragedy first occurred, the media had gorged on images of the charismatic front man. Some claimed that he got preferential treatment, that at the very least, Gabriel Wire should have been charged with involuntary manslaughter, but the witnesses backed away and even Alista Snow's father eventually stopped demanding justice. Whatever the reason--cleared or swept under the rug--the incident changed Gabriel Wire forever. He ran off and, if rumors were to be believed, spent the next two years in Tibet and India before returning to the United States under a cloud of secrecy that would have made Howard Hughes envious.


  Gabriel Wire had not been seen in public since.

  Oh, there were plenty of rumors. Wire joined the conspiracy legends of the moon landing, JFK assassination, and Elvis sightings. Some say that he wore disguises and moved freely, going to movies and clubs and restaurants. Some say that he got plastic surgery or that he shaved off his famed curly hair and grew a goatee. Some say that he simply loves the seclusion of Adiona Island and that he sneaks in supermodels and assorted lovelies. This last rumor was given extra credence when one tabloid interrupted a phone call between a famous young starlet and her mother discussing her weekend with "Gabriel at Adiona," but many, Myron included, smelled a planted story timed, by eerie coincidence, the week before said starlet's big movie opening. Sometimes a paparazzo would be tipped off that Gabriel would be somewhere, but the picture would never be conclusive, always appearing in whatever rag with the headline IS THIS GABRIEL WIRE? Other rumors had it that Wire spent considerable time institutionalized while others insisted that the reason he kept out of sight was simple vanity: His beautiful face had been sliced up during a bar fight in Mumbai.

  Gabriel Wire's vanishing act did not spell the end of HorsePower. Just the opposite, in fact. Not surprisingly, the legend of Gabriel Wire grew. Would people remember Howard Hughes if he was just another rich guy? Were the Beatles hurt by the rumors of Paul Mc-Cartney's death? Eccentricity sells. Gabriel, with Lex's help, managed to keep their music production level steady, and while there was some lost revenue because they couldn't tour anymore, the record sales more than offset that.

  "I'm not here to see Gabriel Wire," Myron said.

  "Good," the guard said, "because I never heard of him."

  "I need to see Lex Ryder."

  "Don't know him either."

  "Mind if I make a call?"

  "After you turn around and leave," the guard said, "you can have sex with Rhesus monkeys for all I care."

  Myron looked at him. There was something familiar about the man, but he couldn't put his finger on it. "You're not your average rent-a-cop."

  "Hmm." The guard arched an eyebrow. "Dazzling now with flattery on top of the smile?"

  "Double dazzle."

  "If I were a hot chick, I'd probably be disrobing by now."

  Yep, definitely not your average rent-a-cop. He had the eyes, the mannerisms, the relaxed coil of a pro. Something here was not adding up.

  "What's your name?" Myron asked.

  "Guess my answer. Go ahead. Take a wild guess."

  "Turn around and leave?"

  "Bingo."

  Myron decided not to argue. He backed up, surreptitiously taking out his modified Win-spy BlackBerry. There was a zoom camera on it. He headed to the end of the drive, got the camera up, snapped a quick pic of the guard. He sent it off to Esperanza by e-mail. She'd know what to do. Then he called Buzz, who must have seen on his caller ID that it was Myron: "I'm not going to tell you where Lex is."

  "First of all, I'm fine," Myron said. "Thanks for having my back at the club last night."

  "My job is to take care of Lex, not you."

  "Second, you don't have to tell me where Lex is. You're both at Wire's place on Adiona Island."

  "How did you figure that out?"

  "GPS on your phone. In fact, I'm right outside the gate now."

  "Wait, you're already on the island?"

  "Yep."

  "Doesn't matter. You can't get in here."

  "Really? I could call Win. If we put our minds to it, we'll figure a way."

  "Man, you're a pest. Look, Lex doesn't want to go home. That's his right."

  "Good point."

  "And you're his agent, for crying out loud. You're supposed to be looking out for his interests too."

  "Another good point."

  "Exactly. You're not a marriage counselor."

  Maybe, maybe not. "I need to talk to him for five minutes."

  "Gabriel won't let anyone in. Hell, I'm not allowed out of the guest cottage."

  "There's a guest cottage?"

  "Two. I think he keeps girls in the other one and shuffles them in one at a time."

  "Girls?"

  "What, you want the more politically correct 'women' ? Hey, it's still Wire. I don't know their ages. Anyway, no one is allowed in the recording studio or main house except through some tunnel. It's spooky here, Myron."

  "Do you know my sister-in-law?"

  "Who's your sister-in-law?"

  "Kitty Bolitar. You might know her better as Kitty Hammer. She was at Three Downing with you guys last night."

  "Kitty's your sister-in-law?"

  "Yes."

  Silence.

  "Buzz?"

  "Hold on a second." After a full minute had passed, Buzz came back on the phone. "You know the Teapot?"

  "The town pub?"

  "Lex will meet you there in half an hour."

  Myron expected the only pub on an island of the stuffy old-moneys to be like Win's office--dark woods, burgundy leather, antique wooden globe, decanters, heavy crystal, oriental carpets, maybe paintings of a fox hunt. That wasn't the case. The Teapot Lodge looked like a neighborhood drinking hole in a seedier section of Irvington, New Jersey. Everything looked worn. The windows were loaded up with neon beer signs. There was sawdust on the floor and a popcorn stand in the corner. There was also a small dance floor with a mirrored disco ball. "Mack the Knife" by Bobby Darin played over the sound system. The dance floor was packed. Age range: wide--from "barely legal" to "foot in grave." The men wore either blue oxfords with sweaters tied around their shoulders or green blazers Myron had only seen on Masters golf champions. The well-kept, though not surgically or Botox enhanced, women wore pink Lilly Pulitzer tunics and blazing white trousers. The faces were ruddy from inbreeding, exertion, and drink.

  Man, this island was weird.

  Bobby Darin's "Mack the Knife" neatly segued into an Eminem and Rihanna duet about watching a lover burn and loving the way said lover lies. It is a cliche that white people can't dance, but the cliche here was concrete and unshakable. The song may have changed, but the limited dance steps did not alter in any discernible way. Not even the rhythm or lack thereof. Too many of the men snapped when they danced, as if they were Dino and Frank performing at the Sands.

  The bartender sported a receding-hairline pompadour and a suspicious smile. "Help you?" he said.

  "Beer," Myron said.

  Pompadour just stared at him, waited.

  "Beer," Myron said again.

  "Yes, I heard you. I just never heard someone order that before."

  "A beer?"

  "Just the word 'beer.' It is customary to say a kind. Like Bud or Michelob or something."

  "Oh, what have you got?"

  The bartender started ripping off about a million titles. Myron stopped him on the Flying Fish Pale Ale, mostly because he liked the name. The beer ended up being awesome, but Myron wasn't much of a connoisseur. He grabbed a wooden booth near a group of lovely young, uh, girls-cum-women. It was indeed hard to tell ages anymore. The women were speaking something Scandinavian--Myron wasn't good enough with foreign languages to know more than that. Several of the ruddy-faced men dragged them out on the dance floor. Nannies, Myron realized, or more specifically, au pairs.

  A few minutes later, the pub door flew open. Two large men stomped in as though putting out small brush fires. Both wore aviator sunglasses, jeans, and a leather jacket, even though it was maybe a hundred degrees out. Aviator sunglasses inside a dark pub--talk about trying too hard. One of the men took a step left, the other a step right. The one on the right nodded.

  Lex entered, looking understandably embarrassed by the bodyguard spectacle. Myron raised his hand and gave a little wave. The two bodyguards started toward him, but Lex stopped them. They didn't look happy about it, but they stayed by the door. Lex bounced over and slid into the booth.

  "Gabriel's guys," Lex said by way of explanation. "He insisted they come too."

  "Why?"

  "Because he's
a schizo who grows more paranoid by the day, that's why."

  "By the way, who was the guy at the gate?"

  "Which guy?"

  Myron described him. The color ebbed from Lex's face.

  "He was at the gate? You must have set off a sensor when you drove in. He's normally inside."

  "Who is he?"

  "I don't know. He's not exactly chummy."

  "You've seen him before?"

  "I don't know," Lex said a little too quickly. "Look, Gabriel doesn't like me talking about his security. Like I said, he's paranoid. Forget it; it's not important."

  Fine with Myron. He wasn't here to learn about the lifestyle of a rock star. "You want a drink?"

  "Nah, we're working late tonight."

  "So why are you hiding?"

  "I'm not hiding. We're working. This is how we always do it. Gabriel and I holed up alone in his studio. Making music." He glanced back at the two big bodyguards. "So what are you doing here, Myron? I already told you: I'm fine. This doesn't concern you."

  "This isn't about just you and Suzze anymore."

  Lex sighed, sat back. He, like lots of aging rockers, had the emaciated thing going on, with skin like weathered tree bark. "What, it's about you all of a sudden?"

  "I want to know about Kitty."

  "Dude, I'm not her keeper either."

  "Just tell me where she is, Lex."

  "I don't have a clue."

  "You don't have an address or a phone number?"

  Lex shook his head.

  "So how did she end up with you at Three Downing?"

  "Not just her," Lex said. "There were, what, a dozen of us."

  "I don't care about the others. I'm asking how Kitty ended up with you guys."

  "Kitty is an old friend," Lex said with an exaggerated shrug. "She called out of the blue and said she could use a night out. I told her where we were."

  Myron looked at him. "You're kidding, right?"

  "What?"

  "Just called you out of the blue for a night out? Please."

  "Look, Myron, why are you asking me these questions? Why don't you ask your brother where she is?"

  Silence.

  "Ah," Lex said, "I see. So you're doing this for your bro?"

  "No."