One False Move Page 14

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It came back to Myron. Junior year, the Essex County tournament. Shabazz was short for Malcolm X Shabazz High School of Newark. The school had no whites. Its starting five featured guys named Rhahim and Khalid. Even back then Shabazz High had been surrounded by a barbwire fence with a sign that read GUARD DOGS ON DUTY.

Guard dogs at a high school. Think about it.

“I remember,” Myron said.

Mabel burst into a short laugh. When she did, every part of her jiggled. “Funniest thing I ever saw,” she said. “All these pale boys walking in scared out of their wits, eyes as big as saucers. You were the only one at home, Myron.”

“That’s because of your brother.”

She shook her head. “Horace said you were the best he ever worked with. He said nothing would have stopped you from being great.” She leaned forward. “You two had something special, didn’t you?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Horace loved you, Myron. Talked about you all the time. When you got drafted, I tell you, it was the happiest I’d seen him in years. You called him, right?”

“As soon as I heard.”

“I remember. He came over and told me all about it.” Her voice was wistful. She paused and adjusted herself in the seat. “And when you got hurt, well, Horace cried. Big, tough man came to this house and sat right where you are now, Myron, and he cried like a little baby.”

Myron said nothing.

“You want to know something else?” Mabel continued. She took a sip of her coffee. Myron held his cup, but he could not move. He managed a nod.

“When you tried that comeback last year, Horace was so worried. He wanted to call you, talk you out of it.”

Myron’s voice was thick. “So why didn’t he?”

Mabel Edwards gave him a gentle smile. “When was the last time you spoke to Horace?”

“That phone call,” Myron said. “Right after the draft.”

She nodded as though that explained everything. “I think Horace knew you were hurting,” she said. “I think he figured you’d call when you were ready.”

Myron felt something well up in his eyes. Regrets and could-have-beens tried to sneak in, but he shoved them away. No time for this now. He blinked a few times and put the coffee to his lips. After he had taken a sip, he asked, “Have you seen Horace lately?”

She put her cup down slowly and studied his face. “Why do you want to know?”

“He hasn’t shown up for work. Brenda hasn’t seen him.”

“I understand that,” Mabel continued, her voice set on caution now, “but what’s your interest in this?”

“I want to help.”

“Help what?”

“Find him.”

Mabel Edwards waited a beat. “Don’t take this the wrong way, Myron,” she said, “but how does this concern you?”

“I’m trying to help Brenda.”

She stiffened slightly. “Brenda?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Do you know she got a court order to keep her father away from her?”

“Yes.”

Mabel Edwards slipped on the half-moon glasses and picked up her knitting. The needles began to dance. “I think maybe you should stay out of this, Myron.”

“Then you know where he is?”

She shook her head. “I didn’t say that.”

“Brenda is in danger, Mrs. Edwards. Horace might be connected.”

The knitting needles stopped short. “You think Horace would hurt his own daughter?” Her voice was a little sharp now.

“No, but there might be a connection. Somebody broke into Horace’s apartment. He packed a bag and cleared out his bank account. I think he may be in trouble.”

The needles started again. “If he is in trouble,” she said, “maybe it’s best that he stay hid.”

“Tell me where he is, Mrs. Edwards. I’d like to help.”

She stayed silent for a long time. She pulled at the yarn and kept knitting. Myron looked around the room. His eyes found the photographs again. He stood and studied them.

“Is this your son?” he asked.

She looked up over her glasses. “That’s Terence. I got married when I was seventeen, and Roland and I were blessed with him a year later.” The needles picked up speed. “Roland died when Terence was a baby. Shot on the front stoop of our home.”

“I’m sorry,” Myron said.

She shrugged, managed a sad smile. “Terence is the first college graduate in our family. That’s his wife on the right. And my two grandsons.”

Myron lifted the photograph. “Beautiful family.”

“Terence worked his way through Yale Law School,” she continued. “He became a town councilman when he was just twenty-five.” That was probably why he looked familiar, Myron thought. Local TV news or papers. “If he wins in November, he’ll be in the state senate before he’s thirty.”

“You must be proud,” Myron said.

“I am.”

Myron turned and looked at her. She looked back.

“It’s been a long time, Myron. Horace always trusted you, but this is different. We don’t know you anymore. These people who are looking for Horace”—she stopped and pointed to the puffy eye—“you see this?”

Myron nodded.

“Two men came by here last week. They wanted to know where Horace was. I told them I didn’t know.”

Myron felt his face flush. “They hit you?”

She nodded, her eyes on his.

“What did they look like?”

“White. One was a big man.”

“How big?”

“Maybe your size.”

Myron was six-four, two-twenty. “How about the other guy?”

“Skinny. And a lot older. He had a tattoo of a snake on his arm.” She pointed to her own immense biceps, indicating the spot.

“Please tell me what happened, Mrs. Edwards.”

“It’s just like I said. They came into my house and wanted to know where Horace was. When I told them I didn’t know, the big one punched me in the eye. The little one, he pulled the big one away.”

“Did you call the police?”

“No. But not because I was afraid. Cowards like that don’t scare me. But Horace told me not to.”

“Mrs. Edwards,” Myron said, “where is Horace?”

“I’ve already said too much, Myron. I just want you to understand. These people are dangerous. For all I know, you’re working for them. For all I know, your coming here is just a trick to find Horace.”

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