One False Move Page 27

Chance chuckled too. Real yucksters, these Bradford boys.

“Yeah, I guess.” Myron looked at Win. Win nodded. Both men stood up.

“Thank you for your time,” Win said. “We’ll show ourselves out.”

The two politicians tried not to look too stunned. Chance finally cracked a bit. “What the hell is this?” Arthur silenced him with a look. He rose to shake hands, but Myron and Win were already at the door.

Myron turned and did his best Columbo. “Funny.”

“What?” Arthur Bradford said.

“That you don’t remember Anita Slaughter better. I thought you would.”

Arthur turned his palms upward. “We’ve had lots of people work here over the years.”

“True,” Myron said, stepping through the portal. “But how many of them found your wife’s dead body?”

The two men turned to marble—still and smooth and cool. Myron did not wait for more. He released the door and followed Win out.

As they drove through the gate, Win said, “What exactly did we just accomplish?”

“Two things. One, I wanted to find out if they had something to hide. Now I know they do.”

“Based on?”

“Their outright lies and evasiveness.”

“They’re politicians,” Win said. “They’d lie and evade if you asked them what they had for breakfast.”

“You don’t think there’s something there?”

“Actually,” Win said, “I do. And thing two?”

“I wanted to stir them up.”

Win smiled. He liked that idea. “So what next, Kemo Sabe?”

“We need to investigate Elizabeth Bradford’s premature demise,” Myron said.

“How?”

“Hop onto South Livingston Avenue. I’ll tell you where to make the turn.”

The Livingston Police Station sat next to the Livingston Town Hall and across the street from the Livingston Public Library and Livingston High School. A true town center. Myron entered and asked for Officer Francine Neagly. Francine had graduated from the high school across the street the same year as Myron. He’d hoped to get lucky and catch her at the station.

A stem-looking desk sergeant informed Myron that Officer Neagly was “not present at this particular time”—that’s how cops talk—but that she had just radioed in for her lunch break and would be at the Ritz Diner.

The Ritz Diner was truly ugly. The formerly workmanlike brick structure had been spray-painted seaweed green with a salmon pink door—a color scheme too gaudy for a Carnival Cruise ship. Myron hated it. In its heyday, when Myron was in high school, the diner had been a run-of-the-mill, unpretentious eatery called the Heritage. It’d been a twenty-four-hour spot back then, owned by Greeks naturally—this seemed to be a state law—and frequented by high school kids grabbing burgers and fries after a Friday or Saturday night of doing nothing. Myron and his friends would don their varsity jackets, go out to a variety of house parties, and end up here. He tried now to remember what he did at those parties, but nothing specific came to mind. He didn’t imbibe in high school—alcohol made him sick—and was prudish to the point of Pollyanna when it came to the drug scene. So what did he do at these things? He remembered the music, of course, blaring the Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan and Supertramp, gleaning deep meaning from the lyrics of Blue Oyster Cult songs (“Yo, man, what do you think Eric really means when he says, ‘I want to do it to your daughter on a dirt road’?”). He remembered occasionally making out with a girl, rarely more, and then their avoiding each other at all costs for the rest of their scholastic lives. But that was pretty much it. You went to the parties because you were afraid you’d miss something. But nothing ever happened. They were all an indistinguishable, monotonous blur now.

What he did remember—what, he guessed, would always remain vivid in the old memory banks—was coming home late and finding his dad feigning sleep in the recliner. It didn’t matter what time it was. Two, three in the morning. Myron did not have a curfew. His parents trusted him. But Dad still stayed up every Friday and Saturday night and waited in that recliner and worried and when Myron put his key in the lock, he faked being asleep. Myron knew he was faking. His dad knew Myron knew. But Dad still tried to pull it off every time.

Win elbowed him back to reality. “Are you going to go in, or are we just going to marvel at this monument to nouveau tackiness?”

“My friends and I used to hang out here,” Myron said. “When I was in high school.”

Win looked at the diner, then at Myron. “You guys were the balls.”

Win waited in the car. Myron found Francine Neagly at the counter. He sat on the stool next to her and fought off the desire to spin it.

“That police uniform,” Myron said, and gave a little whistle. “It’s quite the turn-on.”

Francine Neagly barely looked up from her burger. “Best part is, I can also use it to strip at bachelor parties.”

“Saves on the overhead.”

“Right-o.” Francine took a bite out of a burger so rare it screamed ouch. “As I live and breathe,” she said, “the local hero appears in public.”

“Please don’t make a fuss.”

“Good thing I’m here, though. If the women get out of control, I can shoot them for you.” She wiped very greasy hands. “I heard you moved out of town,” she said.

“I did.”

“Been the opposite around here lately.” She grabbed another napkin out of the dispenser. “Most towns, all you hear about is how people want to grow up and move away. But here, well, everyone’s coming back to Livingston and raising their own families. Remember Santola? He’s back. Three kids. And Friedy? He lives in the Weinbergs’ old house. Two kids. Jordan lives by St. Phil’s. Fixed up some old piece of shit. Three kids, all girls. I swear, half our class got married and moved back to town.”

“How about you and Gene Duluca?” Myron asked with a little smile.

She laughed. “Dumped him my freshman year of college. Christ, we were gross, huh?”

Gene and Francine had been the class couple. They spent lunch hours sitting at a table, French-kissing while eating cafeteria food, both wearing debris-enmeshed braces.

“Gross City,” Myron agreed.

She took another bite. “Wanna order something gooey and suck face? See what it was like?”

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