One False Move Page 66

Myron knew where it was. As he bounded up the stairs, he could hear the pregame hum of the crowd. The sound was oddly soothing. When he reached court level, he veered to his right. The press room was on the other side of the floor. He ran out onto the playing surface. The crowd, he was surprised to see, was enormous. Norm had told him how he planned to darken and close off the top sections—that is, drape a black curtain over the unused seats so as to give the arena a more crowded yet intimate feel. But sales had far surpassed expectations. A sellout crowd was finding its seats. Many fans held up banners: DAWN OF AN ERA, BRENDA RULES, WELCOME TO THE HOUSE OF BRENDA, NOW IT’S OUR TURN, SISTERS ARE DOING IT FOR THEMSELVES, YOU GO, GIRLS! Stuff like that. Sponsors’ logos dominated the landscape like the work of a mad graffiti artist. Giant images of a stunning Brenda flashed across the overhead scoreboard. A highlight reel of some kind. Brenda in her college uniform. Loud music started up. Hip music. That was what Norm wanted. Hip. He’d been generous with the comp tickets too. Spike Lee was courtside. So were Jimmy Smits and Rosie O’Donnell and Sam Waterston and Woody Allen and Rudy Giuliani. Several ex-MTV hosts, the biggest sort of has-beens, mugged for cameras, desperate to be seen. Supermodels wore wire-rimmed glasses, trying a little too hard to look both beautiful and studious.

They were all here to toast New York’s latest phenom: Brenda Slaughter.

This was supposed to be her night, her chance to shine in the pro arena. Myron had thought that he understood Brenda’s insistence on playing the opener. But he hadn’t. This was more than a game. More than her love for basketball. More than a personal tribute. This was history. Brenda had seen that. In this era of jaded superstars she relished the chance to be a role model and shape impressionable kids. Corny, but there you have it. Myron paused for a moment and looked at the Jumbo-tron screen above his head. The digitally enlarged Brenda was driving hard to the hoop, her face a mask of determination, her body and movements fiercely splendid and graceful and purposeful.

Brenda would not be denied.

Myron picked up the sprint again. He left the court and dipped down the ramp and back into a corridor. In a matter of moments he reached the press room. Win was coming up behind him. Myron opened the door. Norm Zuckerman was there. So were Detectives Maureen McLaughlin and Dan Tiles.

Tiles made a point of checking his watch. “That was fast,” he said. He may have been smirking under the hinterlands that doubled as his mustache.

“Is she here?” Myron asked.

Maureen McLaughlin gave him the on-your-side smile. “Why don’t you sit down, Myron?”

Myron ignored her. He turned to Norm. “Has Brenda shown up?”

Norm Zuckerman was dressed like Janis Joplin guest-starring on Miami Vice, “No,” he said.

Win trotted in behind Myron. Tiles didn’t like the intrusion. He crossed the room and gave Win the tough guy scrutiny. Win let him. “And who might this be?” Tiles asked.

Win pointed at Tiles’s face. “You got some food stuck in your mustache. Looks like scrambled eggs.”

Myron kept his eyes on Norm. “What are they doing here?”

“Sit down, Myron.” It was McLaughlin again. “We need to chat.”

Myron glanced over at Win. Win nodded. He moved toward Norm Zuckerman and put his arm around his shoulders. The two of them headed for a corner.

“Sit,” McLaughlin said again. There was just a hint of steel this time.

Myron slid into a chair. McLaughlin did likewise, maintaining oodles of eye contact along the way. Tiles stayed standing and glared down at Myron. He was one of those idiots who believed that head level equaled intimidation.

“What happened?” Myron asked.

Maureen McLaughlin folded her hands. “Why don’t you tell us, Myron?”

He shook his head. “I don’t have time for this, Maureen. Why are you here?”

“We’re looking for Brenda Slaughter,” McLaughlin said. “Do you know where she is?”

“No. Why are you looking for her?”

“We’d like to ask her some questions.”

Myron looked around the room. “And you figured the best time to ask them would be right before the biggest game of her life?”

McLaughlin and Tiles sneaked an obvious glance. Myron checked out Win. He was still whispering with Norm.

Tiles stepped up to the plate. “When did you last see Brenda Slaughter?”

“Today,” Myron said.

“Where?”

This was going to take too long. “I don’t have to answer your questions, Tiles. And neither does Brenda. I’m her attorney, remember? You got something, let me know. If not, stop wasting my time.”

Tiles’s mustache seemed to curl up in a grin. “Oh, we got something, smart guy.”

Myron did not like the way he said that. “I’m listening.”

McLaughlin leaned forward, again with the earnest eyes. “We got a search warrant this morning for the college dormitory of Brenda Slaughter.” Her tone was all police official now. “We found on the premises one weapon, a Smith and Wesson thirty-eight, the same caliber that killed Horace Slaughter. We’re waiting for a ballistics test to see if it’s the murder weapon.”

“Fingerprints?” Myron asked.

McLaughlin shook her head. “Wiped clean.”

“Even if it is the murder weapon,” Myron said, “it was obviously planted.”

McLaughlin looked puzzled. “How do you know that, Myron?”

“Come on, Maureen. Why would she wipe the weapon clean and then leave it where you could find it?”

“It was hidden under her mattress,” McLaughlin countered.

Win stepped away from Norm Zuckerman. He started dialing on his cell phone. Someone answered. Win kept his voice low.

Myron shrugged, feigning nonchalance. “Is that all you got?”

“Don’t try to snow us, asshole.” Tiles again. “We have a motive: she feared her father enough to get a restraining order. We found the murder weapon hidden under her own mattress. And now we have the fact that she’s clearly on the lam. That’s a shitload more than enough to make an arrest.”

“So that’s why you’re here?” Myron countered. “To arrest her?”

Again McLaughlin and Tiles exchanged a glance. “No,” Mclaughlin said as though pronouncing the word took great effort. “But we would very much like to speak with her again.”

Win disconnected the call. Then he beckoned Myron with a nod.

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