Live wire, p.9
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       Live Wire, p.9

         Part #10 of Myron Bolitar series by Harlan Coben
 
"You know I love to wax philosophical, right?"

  "I do."

  "Here is a simple one: Relationships are complicated. Especially matters of the heart. You have to let people work their own stuff out."

  "Where is she, Lex?"

  "I told you. I don't know."

  "Did you ask her about Brad?"

  "Her husband?" Lex frowned. "Now it's my turn to say, 'You're kidding, right?' "

  Myron handed him a copy of the still frame he'd gotten off the security camera of the ponytailed guy. "Kitty was with this guy at the club. Do you know him?"

  Lex took a look at it and shook his head. "Nope."

  "He was part of your entourage."

  "No," Lex said, "he wasn't." He sighed, picked up a cocktail napkin, started tearing it into strips.

  "Tell me what happened, Lex."

  "Nothing happened. I mean, not really." Lex looked toward the bar. A pudgy man in a fitted golf shirt was chatting up one of the au pairs. Tears for Fears's "Shout" was on and literally everyone else in the bar yelled "Shout" at the appropriate time. The guys who'd been snapping on the dance floor still snapped.

  Myron waited, gave Lex space.

  "Look, Kitty called me," Lex said. "She said she needed to talk. She sounded pretty desperate. You know we go way back. You remember those days, right?"

  There had been a time when the rock gods partied with the tennis starlets. Myron had been there for part of it, fresh out of law school and seeking clients for his start-up agency. So had his younger brother, Brad, enjoying the summer before his freshman year of college by "interning" for his big bro. That summer had started off with such promise. It ended with the love of his life breaking his heart--and Brad gone from his life for good.

  "I remember," Myron said.

  "So anyway I figured that Kitty just wanted to say hi. For old times' sake. I always felt bad for her, you know, the whole career gone up in flames like that. I guess I was curious too. It's been, what, fifteen years since she quit."

  "Something like that."

  "So Kitty meets up with us at the nightclub, and right away I know something isn't right."

  "In what way?"

  "She has a bad case of the shakes. Her eyes are glazed, and man, I know strung out when I see it. I stopped using a long time ago. Suzze and me, we went through that war already. Kitty, no offense, but she was still using. She hadn't come to me to say hello. She came to me to score. When I told her I wasn't into that scene, she asked for money. I told her no on that too. So she moved on."

  "Moved on?"

  "Yep."

  "What do you mean, moved on?"

  "What part is hard to understand, man? It's a simple equation. Kitty is a junkie--and we wouldn't give her a fix. Ergo, she hooked up with someone who could, uh, help her out."

  Myron held up the photo of Ponytail. "This guy?"

  "I guess."

  "And then what?"

  "Then nothing."

  "You said Kitty was an old friend."

  "Yeah, so?"

  "So you didn't think to try to help her?"

  "Help her how?" Lex said, turning his palms to the sky. "Like, organize an intervention right there in the nightclub? Like, drag her by force to rehab?"

  Myron said nothing.

  "You don't know junkies."

  "I remember when you were one," Myron said. "I remember when you and Gabriel were throwing all your cash at blow and blackjack."

  "Blow and blackjack. I like that." Lex smiled. "So how come you never helped us out?"

  "Maybe I should have."

  "Nah, you couldn't have helped. A man has to find his own way."

  Myron wondered about that. He wondered about Alista Snow, whether earlier intervention with Gabriel Wire could have helped her out. He almost said that, but what would be the point?

  "You keep wanting to fix things," Lex said, "but the world has a certain ebb and flow. You screw with it, you just make it worse. It isn't always your fight, Myron. Do you mind if I give you a quick example from, well, from your past?"

  "I guess not," Myron said, regretting the words the moment they passed his lips.

  "When I first met you all those years ago, you had a serious girlfriend, right? Jessica something. The writer."

  The regret started taking shape and expanding.

  "And something bad happened between you. I don't know what. Here you were, what, twenty-four, twenty-five years old?"

  "What's your point, Lex?"

  "I was a huge basketball fan, so I knew your whole story. First-round draft pick of the Boston Celtics. Supposed to be the next big superstar, all the planets aligned, and then, bam, you wreck your knee in a preseason game. Career over, just like that."

  Myron made a face. "Uh, your point?"

  "Just listen a second, okay? So you go to Harvard Law and then you come down to Nick's tennis camp to recruit these tennis players. You had no chance against the big guys like IMG and TruPro. I mean, who are you? You're barely out of school. But you land Kitty, the top prospect, and then when she quits the game, you get Suzze. You know how you did that?"

  "I really don't see the relevance."

  "Just stay with me a moment. Do you know how?"

  "I made a good pitch, I guess."

  "No. You landed them the same way you landed me when I heard you were branching out of sports. There's a decency to you, Myron. A person senses it right away. Yeah, you give good meeting and let's face it, having Win as your financial guy gives you a big head start. But what separates you is that we know you care. We know you'd rescue us if we were in trouble. We know you'd rather lose a limb than steal a nickel from us."

  "With all due respect," Myron said, "I still don't see your point."

  "So when Suzze calls you because we've had a tiff, you come running. That's your job. You're hired to do that. But unless a person is hired, well, I have a different philosophy: Things ripple."

  "Wow, can I jot that down?" Myron faked taking out a pen and scribbling. "Things . . . ripple. Great, got it."

  "Stop being a wiseass. What I'm saying is, people shouldn't butt in, even with the best of intentions. It's dangerous and an invasion. When you and Jessica had your big problem, would you have wanted all of us to try to butt in and help?"

  Myron gave him the flat eyes. "Did you just compare my problems with a girlfriend to you going missing when your wife is pregnant?"

  "Just in this way: It is foolhardy and frankly egomaniacal to think you have that kind of power. What's going on with me and Suzze--that isn't your business anymore. You have to respect that."

  "Now that I found you and know you're safe, I do respect that."

  "Good. And unless your brother or sister-in-law asked for your help, well, you're meddling in a matter of the heart. And the heart is like a war zone. Like us going overseas to Iraq or Afghanistan. You think you're being heroic and saving stuff, but really you're just making it worse."

  Myron gave him the flat eyes again. "Did you just compare my concern for my sister-in-law to overseas wars?"

  "Like the US of A, you're meddling. Life is like a river and when you change its course, you're responsible for where it goes."

  A river. Sigh. "Please stop."

  He smiled and rose. "I better go."

  "So you have no idea where Kitty is?"

  He sighed. "You didn't listen to a word I said."

  "No, I listened," Myron said. "But sometimes people are in trouble. Sometimes they need saving. And sometimes people who need help don't have the courage to ask for it."

  Lex nodded. "Must be godlike," he said, "to know when that is."

  "I don't always make the right call."

  "No one does. Why it's best to leave it alone. But I will tell you this much if it helps. Kitty said she was leaving in the morning. Going back to Chile or Peru or somewhere like that. So my guess is, if you want to help, you may be a little late to the party."

  11

  Lex is fine," Myron said.

  Suzze an
d Lex owned a penthouse in a high-rise along the Hudson River in Jersey City, New Jersey. The penthouse took up the entire top floor and had more square feet than your average Home Depot. Despite the hour--it was midnight by the time he got back from Adiona Island--Suzze was dressed and waiting for him on the enormous terrace. The terrace was waaay over the top, what with those Cleopatra sofas and plush chairs and Greek statues and French gargoyles and Roman arches, especially when all you needed--indeed all you saw anyway--was the killer view of the Manhattan skyline.

  Myron had wanted to go straight home. There was really nothing more to discuss now that they knew Lex was safe, but on the phone Suzze had seemed oddly needy. With some clients, coddling came with the territory. With Suzze, that had never been the case.

  "Tell me what Lex said."

  "He's with Gabriel recording some songs for their next album."

  Suzze stared at the Manhattan skyline through the summer mist. In her hand, she held a glass of what looked like wine. Myron was not sure what to say about that--pregnancy and wine--so he just kind of cleared his throat.

  "What?" Suzze said.

  Myron pointed at the wineglass. Mr. Subtle.

  "The doctor says it's fine to have one," she said.

  "Oh."

  "Don't look at me like that."

  "I'm not."

  She looked out at the skyline from the arch, her hands on her belly. "We're going to need better guard rails up here. What with a baby on the way. I don't even let drunk friends up here."

  "Good idea," Myron said. She was stalling. That was okay. "Look, I don't really know what's up with Lex. I admit he's acting a little weird, but he also made a convincing case that it's not my business. You wanted me to find out if he was okay. I have. I can't force him to come home."

  "I know."

  "So what else is there? I could keep looking into who posted the 'Not His' comment--"

  "I know who posted that," Suzze said.

  That surprised him. He studied her face and when she didn't say anything else, he asked, "Who?"

  "Kitty."

  She took a sip of wine.

  "You're sure?"

  "Yes."

  "How?"

  "Who else would want that kind of payback?" she asked.

  The humidity weighed on Myron like a heavy blanket. He looked at Suzze's belly and wondered what it must be like to lug that around in this weather.

  "Why would she want revenge on you?"

  Suzze ignored the question. "Kitty was a great player, wasn't she?"

  "So were you."

  "Not like her. She was the best player I'd ever seen. I became a pro, won a few tournaments, had four year-end top ten finishes. But Kitty? She could have been one of the greats."

  Myron shook his head. "It would have never happened."

  "What makes you say that?"

  "Kitty was a screwup. The drugs, the partying, the lies, the manipulation, the narcissism, the self-destructive streak."

  "She was young. We were all young. We all made mistakes."

  Silence.

  "Suzze?"

  "Yes?"

  "Why did you want to see me tonight?"

  "To explain."

  "Explain what?"

  She came over to him, spread her arms, and hugged him. Myron held her tight, feeling the warm belly against him. He didn't know if that was weird. But as the hug lasted, it started to feel good, therapeutic. Suzze lowered her head into Myron's chest and stayed there for a while. Myron just held her.

  Finally Suzze said, "Lex is wrong."

  "About?"

  "Sometimes people do need help. I remember nights you saved me. You held me like this. You listened. You never judged me. Maybe you don't know it, but you saved my life a hundred times."

  "I'm still here for you," Myron said softly. "Tell me what's wrong."

  She held on, keeping her ear against his chest. "Kitty and I were both about to turn seventeen. I wanted to win the juniors so badly that year. Get into the Open. Kitty was my top competition. When she beat me in Boston, my mother went crazy."

  Myron said, "I remember."

  "My parents explained to me that everything is fair in competition. You do whatever you have to to win. To get an edge. Do you know about the Shot Heard 'Round the World? The home run by Bobby Thomson in the 1950s?"

  The change of subjects threw him. "Yeah, sure. What about it?"

  "He cheated, my dad said. Thomson. I mean, they all did. People think it just happens now with steroids. But those old New York Giants were stealing signs. Other pitchers scuffed up the baseball. That guy who ran the Celtics, the one who drafted you, he intentionally made it extra hot in the visiting team's locker rooms. Maybe it's not cheating. Maybe it's just looking for the edge."

  "And you looked for the edge?"

  "Yes."

  "How?"

  "I spread rumors about my competitor. I made her out to be more of a slut than she was. I tried to ruin her focus by adding stress to her life. I told you that her baby was probably not Brad's."

  "You weren't the only one who told me that. And I knew Kitty on my own. I didn't base my opinion on what you told me anyway. She was a mess, right?"

  "So was I."

  "But you weren't manipulating my brother. You weren't leading him on and then sleeping around with a bunch of other guys."

  "But I was all too ready to tell you about that, wasn't I?" Suzze nestled her head in closer to his chest. "You know what I didn't tell you?"

  "What?"

  "Kitty also loved your brother. Truly and deeply. When they were broken up, her play suffered. Her heart wasn't in it. I pushed her into partying more. I keep telling her that Brad wasn't for her, that she should play the field."

  Myron thought back to the happy photographs of Kitty, Brad, and Mickey on her Facebook and wondered what could have been. He tried to let his mind settle on those blissful images, but the mind goes where it wants. Right now the mind was veering back to the video of Kitty and Ponytail in that private room at Three Downing. "Kitty made her own mistakes," he said, hearing the bitterness in his tone. "What you said or didn't say made no difference. She lied to Brad about everything. She lied about her drug use. She lied to him about my role in their little drama. She even lied about being on the pill."

  But as he said that last part, something in his own words didn't mesh. Here Kitty was, on the verge of being the next Martina, Chrissie, Steffi, Serena, Venus--and she ends up getting pregnant. Maybe it was, as she claimed, an accident. Anyone who took middle school health class knows that the pill doesn't work 100 percent of the time. But Myron had never given that excuse an iota of plausibility.

  "Does Lex know all this?" he asked.

  "All?" She smiled. "No."

  "He told me that was the big issue. People have secrets and those secrets fester and then destroy trust. You can't have a good relationship without total transparency. You need to know all your spouse's secrets."

  "Lex said that?"

  "Yes."

  "That's sweet," she said. "But he's wrong again."

  "How's that?"

  "No relationship survives total transparency." Suzze lifted her face off his chest. Myron saw the tears on her cheeks, felt the wetness on his shirt. "We all keep secrets, Myron. You know that as well as anyone."

  By the time Myron made it back to the Dakota, it was three in the morning. He checked to see whether Kitty had replied to his "Please forgive me" message. She hadn't. On the off chance that Lex had told him the truth--and that Kitty had told Lex the truth--he sent Esperanza an e-mail to see if they could check passenger manifests for Kitty's name on flights out of Newark or JFK heading to South America. He signed on to the computer to see if Terese was around. She wasn't.

  He thought about Terese. He thought about Jessica Culver, the ex-love Lex had mentioned. After claiming for years that marriage was not for her--the years she was with Myron--Jessica had recently wed a man named Stone Norman. Stone, for crying out loud. What kind
of name was that? His friends probably called him "The Stoner" or "Stone Man." Thinking about old lovers, especially ones you wanted to marry, was never a productive endeavor, so Myron made himself stop.

  Half an hour later, Win came home. He was accompanied by his latest girlfriend, a tall modelesque Asian named Mee. There was a third person too, another attractive Asian woman Myron had never seen before.

  Myron looked over at Win. Win wiggled his eyebrows.

  Mee said, "Hi, Myron."

  "Hi, Mee."

  "This is my friend, Yu."

  Myron held back the sigh and said hello. Yu nodded. When the two women left the room, Win grinned at Myron. Myron just shook his head. "Yu?"

  "Yep."

  When Win had first started up with Mee, he loved to share jokes using her name. "Mee so horny . . . It's Mee time . . . Sometimes I just want to make love to Mee."

  "Yu and Mee?" Myron said.

  Win nodded. "Wonderful, don't you think?"

  "No. Where have you been all night?"

  Win leaned in conspiratorially. "Between Yu and Mee . . ."

  "Yes?"

  Win just smiled.

  "Oh." Myron sighed. "I get it. Good one."

  "Be happy. It used to be all about Mee. But then I realized something. It's about Yu too."

  "Or, uh, in this case, Yu and Mee together."

  "Now you're in the spirit," Win said. "How was your sojourn to Adiona Island?"

  "You want to hear this now?"

  "Yu and Mee can wait."

  "By that, you mean the girls, not us, right?"

  "It does get confusing, doesn't it?"

  "Not to mention perverse."

  "Don't worry. When I'm not around, Yu can keep Mee occupied." Win sat, steepled his fingers. "Tell me what you learned."

  Myron did. When he finished, Win said, "Methinks Lex doth protest too much."

  "You got that too?"

  "When a man does that much philosophizing, he's covering."

  "Plus that last line about her going back to Chile or Peru in the morning?"

  "Throwing you off the track. He wants you to stay away from Kitty."

  "Do you think he knows where she is?"

  "It wouldn't surprise me."

  Myron thought about what Suzze said, about transparency and everyone having secrets. "Oh, one more thing." Myron fumbled for his BlackBerry. "Gabriel Wire had a guard working the gate. He looked familiar to me, but I can't place him."

  He handed Win the BlackBerry, the photograph on the home screen. Win studied it for a moment.

  "This," Win said, "is also not good."

  "You recognize him?"