One False Move Page 57

“What did you think of my speech?” Arthur asked.

“What we need in New Jersey,” Myron said, “is more political clichés.”

Arthur smiled. “You’d prefer a more detailed discussion on the issues, is that it? In this heat? With that crowd?”

“What can I say? I still like ‘Vote for Art, He’s Got an Indoor Pool.’ ”

Bradford waved the comment away. “Have you learned something new about Anita Slaughter?”

“No,” Myron said. “But I’ve learned something new about your late wife.”

Arthur frowned. Chance’s face reddened. Arthur said, “You’re supposed to be trying to find Anita Slaughter.”

“Funny thing that,” Myron said. “When I look into her disappearance, your wife’s death keeps popping up. Why do you think that is?”

Chance piped up. “Because you’re a goddamn idiot.”

Myron looked at Chance. Then he put his finger to his lips. “Shhh.”

“Useless,” Arthur said. “Utterly useless. I have told you repeatedly that Elizabeth’s death has nothing to do with Anita Slaughter.”

“Then humor me,” Myron said. “Why did your wife stop going to parties?”

“Pardon me?”

“During the last six months of her life none of your wife’s friends saw her. She never went to parties anymore. She never even went to her club.” Whatever club that might have been.

“Who told you that?”

“I’ve spoken to several of her friends.”

Arthur smiled. “You’ve spoken,” he said, “to one senile old goat.”

“Careful, Artie. Senile goats have the right to vote.” Myron paused. “Hey, that rhymes. You may have another campaign slogan on your hands: ‘Senile Goats, We Need Your Votes.’ ”

No one reached for a pen.

“You’re wasting my time and I’m through with trying to cooperate,” Arthur said. “I’ll have the driver drop you off.”

“I can still go to the press,” Myron said.

Chance jumped on that one. “And I can put a bullet through your heart.”

Myron put his finger to his lips again. “Shhh.”

Chance was about to add something, but Arthur took the helm. “We had a deal,” he said. “I help keep Brenda Slaughter out of jail. You search for Anita Slaughter and keep my name out of the papers. But you insist on delving into peripheries. That’s a mistake. Your pointless digging will eventually draw my opponent’s attention and give him fresh fodder to use against me.”

He waited for Myron to say something. Myron didn’t.

“You leave me no choice,” Arthur continued. “I will tell you what you want to know. You will then see that it is irrelevant to the issues at hand. And then we will move on.”

Chance did not like that. “Arthur, you can’t be serious—”

“Sit up front, Chance.”

“But—” Chance was sputtering now. “He could be working for Davison.”

Arthur shook his head. “He’s not.”

“But you can’t know—”

“If he was working for Davison, they’d have ten guys following up on this by now. And if he continues to dig into this, he will most certainly be noticed by Davison’s people.”

Chance looked at Myron. Myron winked.

“I don’t like it,” Chance said.

“Sit up front, Chance.”

Chance rose with as much dignity as he could muster, which was absolutely none, and skulked to the front of the bus.

Arthur turned to Myron. “It goes without saying that what I’m about to tell you is strictly confidential. If it’s repeated …” He decided not to finish the sentence. “Have you spoken to your father yet?”

“No.”

“It will help.”

“Help with what?”

But Arthur did not reply. He sat in silence and looked out the window. The bus stopped at a traffic light. A group of people waved at the bus. Arthur looked right through them.

“I loved my wife,” he began. “I want you to understand that. We met in college. I saw her walking across the commons one day and …” The light turned green. The bus started up again. “And nothing in my life was ever the same.” Arthur glanced at Myron and smiled. “Corny, isn’t it?”

Myron shrugged. “Sounds nice.”

“Oh, it was.” He tilted his head at a memory, and for a moment the politician was replaced with a real human being. “Elizabeth and I got married a week after graduation. We had a huge wedding at Bradford Farms. You should have seen it. Six hundred people. Our families were both thrilled, though that didn’t matter a hoot to us. We were in love. And we had the certainty of the young that nothing would ever change.”

He looked off again. The bus whirred. Someone flipped on a television and then muted the sound.

“The first blow came a year after we wed. Elizabeth learned that she could not have children. Some sort of weakness in her uterine walls. She could get pregnant, but she couldn’t carry past the first trimester. It’s strange when I think about it now. You see, from the beginning Elizabeth had what I thought of as quiet moments—bouts of melancholy, some might call them. But they didn’t seem like melancholy to me. They seemed more like moments of reflection. I found them oddly appealing. Does that make any sense to you?”

Myron nodded, but Arthur was still looking out the window.

“But now the bouts came more often. And they were deeper. Natural, I suppose. Who wouldn’t be sad under our circumstances? Today, of course, Elizabeth would have been labeled a manic depressive.” He smiled. “They say it’s all physiological. That there is simply a chemical imbalance in the brain or some such thing. Some even claim that outside stimuli are irrelevant, that even without the uterine problem Elizabeth would have been equally ill in the long run.” He looked at Myron. “Do you believe that?”

“I don’t know.”

He didn’t seem to hear. “I guess it’s possible. Mental illnesses are so strange. A physical problem we can understand. But when the mind works irrationally, well, by its very definition, the rational mind cannot truly relate. We can pity. But we cannot fully grasp. So I watched as her sanity began to peel away. She grew worse. Friends who had thought Elizabeth eccentric began to wonder. At times she got so bad that we would feign a vacation and keep her in the house. This went on for years. Slowly the woman I had fallen in love with was eaten away. Well before her death—five, six years before—she was already a different person. We tried our best, of course. We gave her the best medical care and propped her up and sent her back out. But nothing stopped the slide. Eventually Elizabeth could not go out at all.”

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