One False Move Page 40

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“What are you, a fashion consultant?”

“I’m just trying to jar something loose.”

“I don’t remember anything. She vanished when I was five. How much do you remember from back then?”

Point taken. “Let’s walk around a little,” he suggested. “See if something comes back to you.”

But nothing surfaced, if indeed there was anything there to surface. Myron had not expected anything anyway. He was not big on repressed memory or any of that stuff. Still, the whole episode was curious, and once again it fit into his scenario. As they made their way back to Myron’s car, he decided that it was time to voice his theory.

“I think I know what your father was doing.”

Brenda stopped and looked at him. Myron kept moving. He got into the car. Brenda followed. The car doors closed.

Myron said, “I think Horace was looking for your mother.”

The words took a moment to sink in. Then Brenda leaned back and said, “Tell me why.”

He started up the car. “Okay, but remember I used the word think. I think that’s what he was doing. I don’t have any real proof.”

“Okay, go ahead.”

He took a deep breath. “Let’s start with your father’s phone records. One, he calls Arthur Bradford’s campaign headquarters several times. Why? As far as we know, there is only one connection between your father and Bradford.”

“The fact that my mother worked in his house.”

“Right. Twenty years ago. But here’s something else to consider. When I started searching for your mother, I stumbled upon the Bradfords. I thought they might somehow be connected. Your father might have come to the same conclusion.”

She looked less than impressed. “What else?”

“The phone records again. Horace called the two attorneys who handled your scholarships.”

“So?”

“So why would he call them?”

“I don’t know.”

“Your scholarships are strange, Brenda. Especially the first one. You weren’t even a basketball player yet and you get a vague academic scholarship to a ritzy private school plus expenses? It doesn’t make sense. Scholarships just don’t work that way. And I checked. You are the only recipient of the Outreach Education scholarship. They only awarded it that one year.”

“So what are you getting at?”

“Somebody set up those scholarships with the sole intent of helping you, with the sole intent of funneling you money.” He made the U-turn by Daffy Dan’s, a discount clothing store, and started heading back down Route 10 toward the circle. “In other words, somebody was trying to help you out. Your father may have been trying to find out who that was.”

He glanced over at her, but she would not face him now. Her voice, when she finally spoke, was throaty. “And you think it was my mother?”

Myron tried to tread gently. “I don’t know. But why else would your father call Thomas Kincaid so many times? The man had not handled your scholarship money since you left high school. You read that letter. Why would Horace pester him to the point of near harassment? The only thing I can think of is that Kincaid had information that your father wanted.”

“Where the scholarship money originated from?”

“Right. My guess is, if we can trace that back”—again, tread gently—“we would find something very interesting.”

“Can we do that?”

“I’m not sure. The attorneys will undoubtedly claim privilege. But I’m going to put Win on it. If it involves money, he’ll have the connections to track it down.”

Brenda sat back and tried to digest all this. “Do you think my father traced it back?”

“I doubt it, but I don’t know. Either way your father was starting to make some noise. He hit up the lawyers, and he even went so far as to start questioning Arthur Bradford. That was where he probably went too far. Even if there’d been no wrongdoing, Bradford would not be happy with someone poking into his past, raising old ghosts, especially during an election year.”

“So he killed my father?”

Myron was not sure how to answer that one. “It’s too early to say for sure. But let’s assume for a second that your father did a little too much poking. And let’s also assume the Bradfords scared him off with a beating.”

Brenda nodded. “The blood in the locker.”

“Right. I keep wondering why we found the blood there, why Horace didn’t go home to change or recuperate. My guess is he was beaten near the hospital. In Livingston, at the very least.”

“Where the Bradfords live.”

Myron nodded. “And if Horace escaped from the beating or if he was just afraid they’d come after him again, he wouldn’t go home. He’d probably change at the hospital and run. In the morgue I noticed clothes in the corner—a security guard uniform. It was probably what he changed into when he got to the locker. Then he hit the road and—”

Myron stopped.

“And what?” she asked.

“Damn,” Myron said.

“What?”

“What’s Mabel’s phone number?”

Brenda gave it to him. “Why?”

Myron switched on the cell phone and dialed Lisa at Bell Atlantic. He asked her to check the number. It took Lisa about two minutes.

“Nothing official on it,” Lisa said. “But I checked the line. There’s a noise there.”

“Meaning?”

“Someone’s probably got a tap on it. Internal. You’d have to send someone by there to be sure.”

Myron thanked her and hung up. “They have Mabel’s phone tapped too. That’s probably how they found your father. He called your aunt, and they traced it.”

“So who’s behind the tap?”

“I don’t know,” Myron said.

Silence. They passed the Star-Bright Pizzeria. In Myron’s youth it was rumored that a whorehouse operated out of the back. Myron had gone several times there with his family. When his dad went to the bathroom, Myron followed. Nothing.

“There’s something else that doesn’t make sense,” Brenda said.

“What?”

“Even if you’re right about the scholarships, where would my mother get that kind of money?”

Good question. “How much did she take from your dad?”

“Fourteen thousand, I think.”

“If she invested well, that might be enough. There were seven years between the time she disappeared and the first scholarship payment, so …” Myron calculated the figures in his head. Fourteen grand to start. Hmm. Anita Slaughter would have had to score big to make the money last this long. Possible, sure, but even in the Reagan years, not likely.

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