One False Move Page 47

Myron nodded through the small talk, encouraging Bradford to move on. Bradford picked up the hint. He slapped his thighs with his palms. “Well, then, you’re a busy man. I’m a busy man. Shall we get to it?”

“Sure.”

Bradford leaned in a bit. “I wanted to talk to you about your previous visit here.”

Myron tried to keep his face blank.

“You’ll agree, will you not, that it was all rather bizarre?”

Myron made a noise. Sort of like “Uh-huh” but more neutral.

“Put simply, I’d like to know what you and Win were up to.”

“I wanted the answers to some questions,” Myron said.

“Yes, I realize that. My question is, why?”

“Why what?”

“Why were you asking about a woman who hasn’t been in my employ for twenty years?”

“What’s the difference? You barely remember her, right?”

Arthur Bradford smiled. The smile said that they both knew better. “I would like to help you,” Bradford said. “But I must first question your motives.” He opened his arms. “This is, after all, a major election.”

“You think I’m working for Davison?”

“You and Windsor come to my home under false pretenses. You start asking bizarre questions about my past. You pay off a police officer to steal a file on my wife’s death. Yon are connected with a man who recently tried to blackmail me. And you’ve been seen conversing with known criminal associates of Davison’s.” He gave the political smile, the one that couldn’t help being a touch condescending. “If you were I, what would you think?”

“Back up,” Myron said. “One, I didn’t pay off anybody to steal a file.”

“Officer Francine Neagly. Do you deny meeting with her at the Ritz Diner?”

“No.” Too long to explain the truth, and what was the point? “Okay, forget that one for now. Who tried to blackmail you?”

The manservant entered the room. “Iced tea, sir?”

Bradford thought it over. “Lemonade, Mattius. Some lemonade would be divine.”

“Very well, sir. Mr. Bolitar?”

Myron doubted that Bradford stocked much Yoo-Hoo. “Same here, Mattius. But make mine extra divine.”

Mattius the Manservant nodded. “Very well, sir.” He slid back out the door.

Arthur Bradford wrapped a towel around his shoulders. Then he lay back on the chaise. The lounges were long so that his legs would not hang over the ends. He closed his eyes. “We both know that I remember Anita Slaughter. As you implied, a man does not forget the name of the person who found his wife’s body.”

“That the only reason?”

Bradford opened one eye. “Excuse me?”

“I’ve seen pictures of her,” Myron said simply. “Hard to forget a woman who looked like that.”

Bradford reclosed the eye. For a moment he did not speak. “There are plenty of attractive women in the world.”

“Uh-huh.”

“You think I had a relationship with her?”

“I didn’t say that. I just said she was attractive. Men remember attractive women.”

“True,” Bradford agreed. “But you see, that is the sort of false rumor Davison would love to get his hands on. Do you understand my concern? This is politics, and politics is spin. You wrongly think that my concerns for this matter prove that I have something to hide. But that’s not the case. The truth is, I am worried about perception. Just because I didn’t do anything does not mean my opponent won’t try to make it look like I did. Do you follow?”

Myron nodded. “Like a politician after graft.” But Bradford had a point. He was running for governor. Even if there were nothing there, he would snap into a defensive stance. “So who tried to blackmail you?”

Bradford waited a second, internally calculating, adding up the pros and cons of telling Myron. The internal computer worked down the scenarios. The pros won.

“Horace Slaughter,” he said.

“With what?” Myron asked.

Bradford didn’t answer the question directly. “He called my campaign headquarters.”

“And he got through to you?”

“He said he had incriminating information about Anita Slaughter. I figured it was probably a crackpot, but the fact that he knew Anita’s name bothered me.”

I bet, Myron thought. “So what did he say?”

“He wanted to know what I’d done with his wife. He accused me of helping her run away.”

“Helping her how?”

He waved his hands. “Supporting her, helping her, chasing her away. I don’t know. He was rambling.”

“But what did he say?”

Bradford sat up. He swung his legs across the side of the chaise. For several seconds he looked at Myron as if he were a hamburger he wasn’t sure it was time to flip. “I want to know your interest in this.”

Give a little, get a little. Part of the game. “The daughter.”

“Excuse me?”

“Anita Slaughter’s daughter.”

Bradford nodded very slowly. “Isn’t she a basketball player?”

“Yes.”

“Do you represent her?”

“Yes. I was also friendly with her father. You heard he was murdered?”

“It was in the newspaper,” Bradford said. In the newspaper. Never a straight yes or no with this guy. Then he added, “So what is your connection with the Ache family?”

Something in the back of Myron’s head clicked. “Are they Davison’s ‘criminal associates’?” Myron asked.

“Yes.”

“So the Aches have an interest in his winning the election?”

“Of course. That’s why I’d like to know how you’re connected to them.”

“No connection,” Myron said. “They’re setting up a rival women’s basketball league. They want to sign Brenda.” But now Myron was wondering. The Aches had been meeting with Horace Slaughter. According to FJ, he had even signed his daughter to play with them. Next thing you know, Horace was pestering Bradford about his deceased wife. Could Horace have been working with the Aches? Fodder for thought.

Mattius returned with the lemonades. Fresh squeezed. Cold. Delicious, if not divine. Again the rich. When Mattius left the room, Bradford fell into the feigning-deep-thought look he’d displayed so often at their previous meeting. Myron waited.

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