One False Move Page 37

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Myron nodded. His dad had bought bagels from the same store for thirty years, yet his mother still felt a constant need to entice him with this tidbit. He joined them at the table.

Mom folded her hands in front of her. “Brenda was filling me in on her situation,” she said. Her voice was different now, more lawyerly, less maternal. She pushed a newspaper in front of Myron. The murder of Horace Slaughter had made page one, left-hand column, the spot usually reserved for whatever teen had thrown her newborn out with the morning trash.

“I’d represent her myself,” Mom continued, “but with your involvement, it might look like a conflict of interest. I was thinking of Aunt Clara.”

Clara was not really his aunt, just an old friend of the family and, like Mom, an awesome attorney.

“Good idea,” Myron said.

He picked up the paper and scanned the article. Nothing surprising. The article mentioned the fact that Brenda had recently gotten a restraining order against her father, that she had accused him of assaulting her, and that she was wanted for further questioning but could not be reached. Detective Maureen McLaughlin gave the standard spiel about its being “too early to rule anybody in or out.” Right. The police were controlling the story, leaking just enough to incriminate and put pressure on one person: Brenda Slaughter.

There was a photograph of Horace and Brenda. She was wearing her college basketball uniform, and he had his arm around her. Both were smiling, but the smiles looked more of the “say cheese” variety than anything approaching genuine joy. The caption read something about the father and daughter during “a happier time.” Media melodrama.

Myron turned to page A-9. There was a smaller photograph of Brenda and then, more interestingly, a photograph of Horace Slaughter’s nephew, Terence Edwards, candidate for state senate. According to the caption, the photograph had been taken at “a recent campaign stop.” Hmm. Terence Edwards looked pretty much as he had in the photographs at his mother’s house. With one important difference: In this picture Terence was standing next to Arthur Bradford.

Hello.

Myron showed Brenda the photograph. She looked at it a moment. “Arthur Bradford seems to pop up frequently,” she said.

“Yes.”

“But how does Terence fit into this? He was a kid when my mother ran off.”

Myron shrugged. He checked the kitchen clock. Time to meet Francine. “I have to run a quick errand,” he said vaguely. “I shouldn’t be long.”

“An errand?” Mom frowned. “What kind of errand?”

“I’ll be back soon.”

Mom magnified the frown, getting her eyebrows into the act. “But you don’t even live here anymore, Myron,” she went on. “And it’s only seven in the morning.” In the morning. In case he mistook it for being seven at night. “Nothing’s even open at seven in the morning.”

Mother Bolitar, Mossad Interrogation.

Myron stood through the grilling. Brenda and Mom weighed him with their eyes. He shrugged and said, “I’ll tell you about it when I come back.” He hurried off, showered, dressed in record time, and jumped into his car.

Francine Neagly had mentioned the Halloween scare. He surmised that this was a kind of code. When they were in high school, about a hundred of their classmates had gone to see the movie Halloween. It was a new movie then, just out, and it scared the piss out of everyone. The next day Myron and his friend Eric had dressed up like the murderous Michael Myers—i.e., in black and wearing a goalie mask—and hidden in the woods during the girls’ gym class. They never approached, just popping into sight every once in a while. A few of the kids freaked out and started screaming.

Hey, it was high school. Cut him some slack, okay?

Myron parked the Taurus near the Livingston football field. AstroTurf had replaced grass almost a decade earlier. AstroTurf at a high school. Was that necessary? He climbed through the woods. Sticky dew. His sneakers got wet. He quickly found the old path. Not far from this very spot Myron had made out—necked, to use his parents’ terminology—with Nancy Pettino. Sophomore year. Neither one of them liked the other very much, but all their friends had paired up, and they’d both been bored and figured what the hell.

Ah, young love.

Francine sat in full uniform on the same big rock the two fake Michael Myers had stood upon nearly two decades ago. Her back was to him. She did not bother to turn around when he approached. He stopped a few feet from her.

“Francine?”

She let out a deep breath and said, “What the hell is going on, Myron?”

In their high school days Francine had been something of a tomboy, the kind of fierce, spunky competitor you could not help envying. She tackled everything with energy and relish, her voice daunting and confident. Right now she was balled up on the rock, hugging her knees to her chest and rocking back and forth.

“Why don’t you tell me?” Myron said.

“Don’t play games with me.”

“I’m not playing games.”

“Why did you want to see that file?”

“I told you. I’m not sure it was an accident.”

“What makes you unsure?”

“Nothing concrete. Why? What happened?”

Francine shook her head. “I want to know what’s going on,” she said. “The whole story.”

“Nothing to tell.”

“Right. Yesterday you woke up and you said to yourself, ‘Hey, that accidental death that occurred twenty years ago, I bet it wasn’t an accident at all. So I’ll go ask my old buddy Francine to get the police file for me.’ That what happened, Myron?”

“No.”

“So start talking.”

Myron hesitated a moment. “Let’s say that I’m right, that Elizabeth Bradford’s death was not an accident. And let’s say there is something in those files that proves it. That would mean the police covered it up, right?”

She shrugged, still not looking at him. “Maybe.”

“And maybe they would want it to stay buried.”

“Maybe.”

“So maybe they would want to know what I know. Maybe they would even send an old friend to make me talk.”

Francine’s head snapped around as if someone had pulled a string. “You accusing me of something, Myron?”

“No,” he said. “But if there’s a cover-up going on, how do I know I can trust you?”

She rehugged her knees. “Because there is no cover-up,” she said. “I saw the file. A little thin, but nothing unusual. Elizabeth Bradford fell. There were no signs of a struggle.”

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