One False Move Page 24

“There is one more thing,” Win said.

“What?”

“The question of a safe house.”

She stopped and waited.

Win leaned back. “I am inviting both you and Myron to stay here if you’re comfortable. As you can see, I have plenty of room. You can use the bedroom at the end of the corridor. It has its own bathroom. Myron will be across the hallway. You’ll have the security of the Dakota and easy, close proximity to the two of us.”

Win glanced at Myron, who tried to hide his surprise. Myron frequently stayed overnight—he even kept clothes and a bunch of toiletries here—but Win had never made an offer like this before. He usually demanded total privacy.

Brenda nodded and said, “Thank you.”

“The only potential problem,” Win said, “is my private life.”

Uh-oh.

“I may bring in a dizzying array of ladies for a variety of purposes,” he went on. “Sometimes more than one. Sometimes I film them. Does that bother you?”

“No,” she said. “As long as I can do the same with men.”

Myron started coughing.

Win remained unfazed. “But of course. I keep the video camera in that cabinet.”

She turned to the cabinet and nodded. “Got a tripod?”

Win opened his mouth, closed it, shook his head. “Too easy,” he said.

“Smart man.” Brenda smiled. “Good night, guys.”

When she left, Win looked at Myron. “You can close your mouth now.”

Win poured himself a cognac. “So what business problem did you want to discuss?”

“It’s Esperanza,” Myron said. “She wants a partnership.”

“Yes, I know.”

“She told you?”

Win swirled the liquid in the snifter. “She consulted me. On the hows mostly. The legal setup for such a change.”

“And you never told me?”

Win did not reply. The answer was obvious. Win hated stating the obvious. “Care for a Yoo-Hoo?”

Myron shook his head. “The truth is, I don’t know what to do about it.”

“Yes, I know. You’ve been stalling.”

“Did she tell you that?”

Win looked at him. “You know her better than that.”

Myron nodded. He did know better. “Look, she’s my friend—”

“Correction,” Win interrupted. “She’s your best friend. More so, perhaps, than even I. But you must forget that for now. She is just an employee—a great one perhaps—but your friendship must be meaningless in this decision. For your sake as well as hers.”

Myron nodded. “Yeah, you’re right, forget I said that. And I do understand where she’s coming from. She’s been with me since the beginning. She’s worked hard. She’s finished law school.”

“But?”

“But a partnership? I’d love to promote her, give her her own office, give her more responsibility, even work out a profit-sharing program. But she won’t accept that. She wants to be a partner.”

“Has she told you why?”

“Yeah,” Myron said.

“And?”

“She doesn’t want to work for anyone. It’s as simple as that. Not even me. Her father worked menial jobs for scumbags his whole life. Her mother cleaned other people’s houses. She swore that one day she would work for herself.”

“I see,” Win said.

“And I sympathize. Who wouldn’t? But her parents probably worked for abusive ogres. Forget our friendship. Forget the fact that I love Esperanza like a sister. I’m a good boss. I’m fair. Even she’d have to admit that.”

Win took a deep sip. “But clearly that is not enough for her.”

“So what am I supposed to do? Give in? Business partnerships between friends or family never work. Never. It’s just that simple. Money screws up every relationship. You and I—we work hard to keep our businesses linked but separate. That’s why we get away with it. We have similar goals, but that’s it. There is no money connection. I know a lot of good relationships—and good businesses—that have been destroyed over something like this. My father and his brother still don’t talk because of a business partnership. I don’t want that to happen here.”

“Have you told Esperanza this?”

He shook his head. “But she’s given me a week to make a decision. Then she walks.”

“Tough spot,” Win said.

“Any suggestions?”

“Not a one.” Then Win tilted his head and smiled.

“What?”

“Your argument,” Win said. “I find it ironic.”

“How so?”

“You believe in marriage and family and monogamy and all that nonsense, correct?”

“So?”

“You believe in raising children, the picket fences, the basketball pole in the driveway, peewee football, dance classes, the whole suburbia scene.”

“And again I say, so?”

Win spread his arms. “So I would argue that marriages and the like never work. They inevitably lead to divorce or disillusionment or the deadening of dreams or at the very least, bitterness and resentment. I might—similar to you—point to my own family as an example.”

“It’s not the same thing, Win.”

“Oh, I recognize that. But the truth is, we all take facts and compute them through our own experiences. You had a wonderful family life; thus you believe as you do. I am of course the opposite. Only a leap of faith could change our positions.”

Myron made a face. “Is this supposed to be helping?”

“Heavens, no,” Win said. “But I do so enjoy philosophical folly.”

Win picked up the remote and switched on the television. Nick at Night. Mary Tyler Moore was on. They grabbed fresh drinks and settled back to watch.

Win took another sip, reddening his cheeks. “Maybe Lou Grant will have your answer.”

He didn’t. Myron imagined what would happen if he treated Esperanza the same way Lou treated Mary. If Esperanza were in a good mood, she’d probably tear out his hair until he looked like Murray.

Bedtime. On his way to his room, Myron checked on Brenda. She was sitting lotus style on the antique Queen Something-or-other bed. The large textbook was open in front of her. Her concentration was total, and for a moment he just watched her. Her face displayed the same serenity he’d seen on the court. She wore flannel pajamas, her skin still a little wet from a recent shower, a towel wrapped around her hair.

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