One False Move Page 46

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“Governor-to-be?”

The Skinny Ferret shrugged. “Confidence.”

“Nice to see. So why doesn’t he call me?”

“The next governor thought it would be best if we accompanied you.”

“I think I can manage to drive the mile by myself.” Myron looked at the big guy again and spoke slowly. “After all, I’m not a grandmother.”

The big guy sniffed and rolled his neck. “I can still beat you like one.”

“Beat me as you would a grandmother,” Myron said. “Gee, what a guy.”

Myron had read recently about self-help gurus who taught their students to picture themselves successful. Visualize it, and it will happen or some such credo. Myron was not sure, but he knew that it worked in combat. If the chance presents itself, picture how you will attack. Imagine what countermoves your opponent might make and prepare yourself for them. That was what Myron had been doing since Skinny had admitted to the tattoo. Now that he saw that no one was in sight, he struck.

Myron’s knee landed squarely in the big guy’s groin. The big guy made a noise like he was sucking through a straw that still had drops of liquid in it. He folded like an old wallet. Myron pulled out his gun and pointed it at the Skinny Ferret. The big guy’s body melted to the pavement and formed a puddle.

The Skinny Ferret had not moved. He looked slightly amused.

“Wasteful,” Skinny said.

“Yeah,” Myron agreed. “But I feel much better.” He looked at the big guy. “That was for Mabel Edwards.”

Skinny shrugged. Not a care in the world. “So now what?”

“Where’s your car?” Myron asked.

“We were dropped off. We’re supposed to go back to the house with you.”

“I don’t think so.”

The big guy writhed and tried to suck in a breath. Neither standing man cared. Myron put away his gun.

“I’ll drive myself over, if you don’t mind.”

The skinny guy spread his arms. “Suit yourself.”

Myron started to get into his Taurus.

“You don’t know what you’re up against,” Skinny said.

“I keep hearing that.”

“Maybe,” he said. “But now you’ve heard it from me.”

Myron nodded. “Consider me scared.”

“Ask your father, Myron.”

That made him pull up. “What about my father?”

“Ask him about Arthur Bradford.” The smile of a mongoose gnawing on a neck. “Ask him about me.”

Icy water flooded Myron’s chest. “What does my father have to do with any of this?”

But Skinny was not about to answer. “Hurry now,” he said. “The next governor of New Jersey is waiting for you.”

Myron put a call in to Win. He quickly told him what’d happened.

“Wasteful,” Win agreed.

“He hit a woman.”

“Then shoot him in the knee. Permanently injure him. A kick in the scrotum is wasteful.”

Proper Payback Etiquette by Windsor Horne Lockwood III. “I’m going to leave the cellular on. Can you get down here?”

“But of course. Please refrain from further violence until I am present.”

In other words: Save some for me.

The guard at Bradford Farms was surprised to see Myron alone. The gate was open, probably in expectation of a threesome. Myron did not hesitate. He drove through without stopping. The guard panicked. He jumped out of his booth. Myron gave him a little finger wave, like Oliver Hardy used to do. He even scrunched up his face into that same Hardy smile. Heck, if he had a bowler, he would have gotten that into the act too.

By the time Myron parked at the front entrance, the old butler was already standing in the doorway. He bowed slightly.

“Please follow me, Mr. Bolitar.”

They headed down a long corridor. Lots of oils on the walls, mostly of men on horses. There was one nude. A woman, of course. No horse in this one. Catherine the Great was truly dead. The butler made a right at the hallway. They entered a glass corridor that resembled a passageway in the Biosphere or maybe Epcot Center. Myron figured that they must have traveled close to fifty yards already.

The manservant stopped and opened a door. His face was perfect butler deadpan.

“Please enter, sir.”

Myron smelled the chlorine before he heard the tiny splashes.

The manservant waited.

“I didn’t bring my bathing suit,” Myron said.

The manservant looked at him blankly.

“I usually wear a thong,” Myron said. “Though I can make due with bikini mesh.”

The manservant blinked.

“I can borrow yours,” Myron continued, “if you have an extra.”

“Please enter, sir.”

“Right, well, let’s stay in touch.”

The butler or whatever left. Myron went inside. The room had that indoor-pool mustiness. Everything was done in marble. Lots of plant life. There were statues of some goddess at each corner of the pool. What goddess, Myron did not know. The goddess of indoor pools, he surmised. The pool’s sole occupant sliced through the water with nary a ripple. Arthur Bradford swam with easy, almost lazy movements. He reached the edge of the pool near Myron and stopped. He was wearing swimming goggles with dark blue lenses. He took them off and ran his hand across his scalp.

“What happened to Sam and Mario?” Bradford asked.

“Mario.” Myron nodded. “That has to be the big guy, right?”

“Sam and Mario were supposed to escort you here.”

“I’m a big boy, Artie. I don’t need an escort.” Bradford had of course sent them to intimidate; Myron needed to show him that the move had not produced the desired effect.

“Fine then,” Bradford replied, his voice crisp. “I have six more laps to go. Do you mind?”

Myron waved a dismissal. “Hey,” he said. “Please go ahead. I can think of nothing that would give me greater pleasure than watching another man swim. Hey, here’s an idea. Why not film a commercial here? Slogan: Vote for Art, He’s Got an Indoor Pool.”

Bradford almost smiled. “Fair enough.” He pushed himself out of the pool in one lax motion. His body was long and lean and looked sleek when wet. He grabbed a towel and signaled to two chaise longues. Myron sat in one but did not lean back. Arthur Bradford did likewise.

“It’s been a long day,” Arthur said. “I’ve already made four campaign stops, and I have three more this afternoon.”

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