One False Move Page 30

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“At lunch.”

A mental image of Godzilla snacking on Tokyo’s citizenry flashed in front of his eyes.

“And she doesn’t like to be called just Cyndi,” Esperanza added. “It’s Big Cyndi.”

“Pardon my overabundance of political sensitivity. Do you have the list of Horace Slaughter’s phone calls?”

“Yes.”

“Any to a lawyer named Rick Peterson?”

The pause was brief. “You’re a regular Mannix,” she said. “Five of them.”

Wheels were beginning to churn in Myron’s head. Never a good thing. “Any other messages?”

“Two calls from the Witch.”

“Please don’t call her that,” Myron said.

Witch was actually an improvement over what Esperanza usually called Jessica (hint: rhymes with Witch but starts with the letter B). Myron had recently hoped for a thawing between the two—Jessica had invited Esperanza to lunch—but he now recognized that nothing short of a thermonuclear meltdown would soften that particular spread of earth. Some mistook this for jealousy. Not so. Five years ago Jessica had hurt Myron. Esperanza had watched it happen. She had seen up close the devastation.

Some people held grudges; Esperanza clutched them and tied them around her waist and used cement and Krazy glue to hold them steady.

“Why does she call here anyway?” Esperanza half snapped. “Doesn’t she know your cellular number?”

“She only uses it for emergencies.”

Esperanza made a noise like she was gagging on a soup ladle. “You two have such a mature relationship.”

“Can I just have the message please?”

“She wants you to call her. At the Beverly Wilshire. Room six-one-eight. Must be the Bitch Suite.”

So much for improvement. Esperanza read off the number. Myron jotted it down.

“Anything else?”

“Your mom called. Don’t forget dinner tonight. Your dad is barbecuing. A potpourri of aunts and uncles will be in attendance.”

“Okay, thanks. I’ll see you this afternoon.”

“Can’t wait,” she said. Then she hung up.

Myron sat back. Jessica had called twice. Hmm.

The trainer tossed Myron a leg brace. Myron strapped it on, fastening it with Velero. The trainer silently worked on the knee, starting with stretch wrap. Myron debated calling Jessica back right now and decided he still had time. Lying back with his head on a sponge pillow of some sort, he dialed the Beverly Wilshire and asked for Jessica’s room. She picked up as though she’d had her hand on the receiver.

“Hello?” Jessica said.

“Hello there, gorgeous,” he said. Charm. “What are you doing?”

“I just spread out a dozen snapshots of you on the floor,” she said. “I was about to strip naked, coat my entire body with some type of oil, and then undulate on them.”

Myron looked up at the trainer. “Er, can I have an ice pack?”

The trainer looked puzzled. Jessica laughed.

“Undulate,” Myron said. “That’s a good word.”

“Me a writer,” Jessica said.

“So how’s the left coast?” Left coast. Hip lingo.

“Sunny,” she said. “There’s too much damn sun here.”

“So come home.”

There was a pause. Then Jessica said, “I have some good news.”

“Oh?”

“Remember that production company that optioned Control Room?”

“Sure.”

“They want me to produce it and cowrite the screenplay. Isn’t that cool?”

Myron said nothing. A steel band wrapped around his chest.

“It’ll be great,” she continued, forcing pseudojocularity into the cautious tone. “I’ll fly home on weekends. Or you can fly out here sometimes. Say, you can do some recruiting out here, nab some West Coast clients. It’ll be great.”

Silence. The trainer finished up and left the room. Myron was afraid to speak. Seconds passed.

“Don’t be like that,” Jessica said. “I know you’re not happy about this. But it’ll work out. I’ll miss you like mad—you know that—but Hollywood always screws up my books. It’s too big an opportunity.”

Myron opened his mouth, closed it, started again. “Please come home.”

“Myron …”

He closed his eyes. “Don’t do this.”

“I’m not doing anything.”

“You’re running away, Jess. It’s what you do best.”

Silence.

“That’s not fair,” she said.

“Screw fair. I love you.”

“I love you too.”

“Then come home,” he said.

Myron’s grip on the phone was tight. His muscles were tensing. In the background he heard Coach Podich blow that damn whistle.

“You still don’t trust me,” Jessica said softly. “You’re still afraid.”

“And you’ve done so much to assuage my fears, right?” He was surprised by the edge in his voice.

The old image jarred him anew. Doug. A guy named Doug. Five years ago. Or was he a Dougie? Myron bet he was. He bet his friends called him Dougie. Yo, Dougie, wanna party, man? Probably called her Jessie. Dougie and Jessie. Five years ago. Myron had walked in on them, and his heart had crumbled as though it’d been molded in ash.

“I can’t change what happened,” Jessica said.

“I know that.”

“So what do you want from me?”

“I want you to come home. I want us to be together.”

More cellular static. Coach Podich called out his name. Myron could feel something vibrating in his chest like a tuning fork.

“You’re making a mistake,” Jessica said. “I know I’ve had some trouble with commitment before—”

“Some trouble?”

“—but this isn’t like that. I’m not running away. You’re pushing on the wrong issue.”

“Maybe I am,” he said. He closed his eyes. It was hard for him to breathe. He should hang up now. He should be tougher, show some pride, stop wearing his heart on his sleeve, hang up. “Just come home,” he said. “Please.”

He could feel their distance, a continent separating them, their voices bypassing millions of people.

“Let’s both take a deep breath,” she said. “Maybe this isn’t for the phone anyway.”

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