One False Move Page 48

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“Being a politician,” Bradford began, “it’s a strange thing. All creatures fight to survive. It’s instinctive, of course. But the truth is, a politician is colder about it than most. He can’t help it. A man has been murdered here, and all I see is the potential for political embarrassment. That’s the plain truth. My goal is simply to keep my name out of it.”

“That’s not going to happen,” Myron said. “No matter what you or I might want.”

“What makes you say that?”

“The police are going to link you into this the same way I did.”

“I’m not following you.”

“I came to you because Horace Slaughter called you. The police will see those same phone records. They’ll have to follow up.”

Arthur Bradford smiled. “Don’t worry about the police.”

Myron remembered Wickner and Pomeranz and the power of this family. Bradford might be right. Myron thought about this. And decided to turn it to his advantage.

“So you’re asking me to keep quiet?” Myron said.

Bradford hesitated. Chess time. Watching the board and trying to figure out Myron’s next move. “I am asking you,” he said, “to be fair.”

“Meaning?”

“Meaning you have no real evidence that I am involved in anything illicit.”

Myron tilted his head back and forth. Maybe yes, maybe no.

“And if you are telling the truth, if you do not work for Davison, then you would have no reason to damage my campaign.”

“I’m not sure that’s true,” Myron said.

“I see.” Again Bradford tried to read the tea leaves. “I assume then that you want something in exchange for your silence.”

“Perhaps. But it’s not what you think.”

“What is it then?”

“Two things. First, I want the answer to some questions. The real answers. If I suspect you are lying or worried about how it will look, I’ll hang you out to dry. I’m not out to embarrass you. I don’t care about this election. I just want the truth.”

“And the second thing?”

Myron smiled. “We’ll get to that. First I need the answers.”

Bradford waited a beat. “But how can you expect me to agree to a condition I don’t even know?”

“Answer my questions first. If I am convinced that you are telling the truth, then I’ll give you the second condition. But if you’re evasive, the second condition becomes irrelevant.”

Bradford didn’t like it. “I don’t think I can agree to that.”

“Fine.” Myron rose. “Have a nice day, Arthur.”

His voice was sharp. “Sit down.”

“Will you answer my questions?”

Arthur Bradford looked at him. “Congressman Davison is not the only one who has unsavory friends.”

Myron let the words hang in the air.

“If you are to survive in politics,” Bradford continued, “you must align yourself with some of the state’s more sordid elements. That’s the ugly truth, Myron. Am I making myself clear?”

“Yes,” Myron said. “For the third time in the past hour someone is threatening me.”

“You don’t appear too frightened.”

“I don’t scare easily.” Half truth. Showing fear was unhealthy; you show fear, you’re dead. “So let’s cut the crap. There are questions here. I can ask them. Or the press can.”

Bradford took his time again. The man was nothing if not careful. “I still don’t understand,” he said. “What’s your interest in this?”

Still stalling with questions. “I told you. The daughter.”

“And when you came here the first time, you were looking for her father?”

“Yes.”

“And you came to me because this Horace Slaughter had called my office?”

Myron nodded. Slowly.

Bradford threw on the baffled face again. “Then why on God’s green earth did you ask about my wife? If indeed you were solely interested in Horace Slaughter, why were you so preoccupied with Anita Slaughter and what happened twenty years ago?”

The room fell silent, save for the gentle whisper of the pool waves. Light reflected off the water, bouncing to and fro like an erratic screen saver. They were at the crux of it now, and both men knew it. Myron thought about it a moment. He kept his eyes on Bradford’s and wondered how much to say and how he could use it. Negotiating. Life was like being a sports agent, a series of negotiations.

“Because I wasn’t just looking for Horace Slaughter,” Myron said slowly. “I was looking for Anita Slaughter.”

Bradford wrestled to maintain control over his facial expressions and body language. But Myron’s words still caused a sharp intake of air. His complexion lost a bit of color. He was good, no doubt about it, but there was something there.

Bradford spoke slowly. “Anita Slaughter disappeared twenty years ago, did she not?”

“Yes.”

“And you think she’s still alive?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

To get information, you had to give it. Myron knew that. You had to prime the pump. But Myron was flooding it now. Time to stop and reverse the flow. “Why would you care?”

“I don’t.” Bradford hardly sounded convincing. “But I assumed that she was dead.”

“Why?”

“She seemed like a decent woman. Why would she have run off and abandoned her child like that?”

“Maybe she was afraid,” Myron said.

“Of her husband?”

“Of you.”

That froze him. “Why would she be afraid of me?”

“You tell me, Arthur.”

“I have no idea.”

Myron nodded. “And your wife accidentally slipped off that terrace twenty years ago, right?”

Bradford did not reply.

“Anita Slaughter just came to work one morning and found your wife dead from a fall,” Myron continued. “She’d slipped off her own balcony in the rainy dark and no one noticed. Not you. Not your brother. No one. Anita just happened by her dead body. Isn’t that what happened?”

Bradford wasn’t cracking, but Myron could sense some fault lines starting to open a touch. “You don’t know anything.”

“Then tell me.”

“I loved my wife. I loved her with everything I had.”

“So what happened to her?”

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