One False Move Page 74

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Myron looked over at Sam. Sam shrugged.

Arthur sat up. He hugged his knees and lowered his head. He began to cry.

“My leg,” Chance said. “I need a doctor.”

Arthur did not move.

“We also need to kill him,” Chance said through a clenched jaw. “He knows too much, Arthur. I know you’re grief-stricken, but we can’t let him ruin everything.”

Sam nodded at that. “He’s right, Mr. Bradford.”

Myron said, “Arthur.”

Arthur looked up.

“I’m your daughter’s best hope.”

“I don’t think so,” Sam said. He aimed the gun. “Chance is right, Mr. Bradford. It’s too risky. We just admitted covering up a murder. He has to die.”

Sam’s walkie-talkie suddenly squeaked. Then a voice came through the tinny speaker: “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”

Win.

Sam frowned at the walkie-talkie. He turned a knob, changed frequency. The red digital readout changed numbers. Then he pressed the talk button. “Someone got to Forster,” Sam said. “Move in and take him out.”

The response was Win’s best Star Trek Scottie: “But I can’t hold her, Captain. She’s breaking up!”

Sam remained calm. “How many radios you got, buddy?”

“Collect all four, now in specially marked packages.”

Sam whistled his appreciation. “Fine,” he said. “So we got ourselves a stalemate. Let’s talk it through.”

“No.” This time it wasn’t Win speaking. It was Arthur Bradford. He fired twice. Both bullets hit Sam in the chest. Sam slumped to the floor, twitched, and then lay still.

Arthur looked at Myron. “Find my daughter,” he said. “Please.”

Win and Myron rushed back to the Jag. Win drove. Myron did not ask about the fate of the men who once possessed those four walkie-talkies. He didn’t much care.

“I searched the entire grounds,” Win said. “She’s not here.”

Myron sat and thought. He remembered telling Detective Wickner at the Little League field that he would not stop digging. And he remembered Wickner’s response: “Then more people are going to die.”

“You were right,” Myron said.

Win kept driving.

“I didn’t keep my eye on the prize. I pushed too hard.”

Win said nothing.

When Myron heard the first ring, he reached for his cellular. Then he remembered that Sam had taken it from him back at the estate. The ringing was coming from Win’s car phone. Win answered it. He said, “Hello.” He listened for a full minute without nodding or speaking or making any noise whatsoever. Then he said, “Thank you,” and hung up. He slowed the car’s speed and pulled over to the side of the road. The car glided to a stop. He shifted into park and snapped off the ignition.

Win turned toward Myron, his gaze as heavy as the ages.

For a fleeting moment Myron was puzzled. But only for a moment. Then his head fell to one side, and he let out a small groan. Win nodded. And something inside Myron’s chest dried up and blew away.

Peter Frankel, a six-year-old boy from Cedar Grove, New Jersey, had been missing for eight hours. Frantic, Paul and Missy Frankel, the boy’s parents, called the police. The Frankels’ backyard was up against a wooded water reservation area. The police and neighbors formed search parties. Police dogs were brought in. Neighbors even brought their own dogs along. Everyone wanted to help.

It did not take long to find Peter. Apparently the boy had crawled into a neighbor’s toolshed and fallen asleep. When he woke up, he pushed at the door, but it was stuck. Peter was scared, of course, but no worse for wear. Everyone was relieved. The town fire whistle blew, signaling that all searchers should return.

One dog didn’t heed the whistle. A German shepherd named Wally ran deeper into the woods and barked steadily until Officer Craig Reed, new with the canine corps, came to see what had upset Wally so.

When Reed arrived, he found Wally barking over a dead body. The medical examiner was called in. His conclusion: The victim, a female in her twenties, had been dead less than twenty-four hours. Cause of death: two contact gunshot wounds to the back of the head.

An hour later Cheryl Sutton, cocaptain of the New York Dolphins, positively identified the body as belonging to her friend and teammate Brenda Slaughter.

The car was still parked in the same place.

“I want to take a drive,” Myron said. “Alone.”

Win wiped his eyes with two fingers. Then he stepped out of the car without a word. Myron slid into the driver’s seat. His foot pressed down on the accelerator. He passed trees and cars and signs and shops and homes and even people taking late-night walks. Music came from the car speakers. Myron did not bother turning it off. He kept driving. Images of Brenda tried to infiltrate, but Myron parried and sidestepped.

Not yet.

By the time he reached Esperanza’s apartment, it was one in the morning. She sat alone on the stoop, almost as though she were expecting him. He stopped and stayed in the car. Esperanza approached. He could see that she had been crying.

“Come inside,” she said.

Myron shook his head. “Win talked about leaps of faith,” he began.

Esperanza stayed still.

“I didn’t really understand what he meant. He kept talking about his own experiences with families. Marriage led to disaster, he said. It was that simple. He had seen countless people get married, and in almost every case they ended up crippling one another. It would take a huge leap of faith to make Win believe otherwise.”

Esperanza looked at him and kept crying. “You loved her,” she said.

He closed his eyes hard, waited, opened them. “I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about us. Everything I know—all my past experience—tells me that our partnership is doomed. But then I look at you. You are the finest person I know, Esperanza. You are my best friend. I love you.”

“I love you too,” she said.

“You’re worth taking the leap. I want you to stay.”

She nodded. “Good, because I can’t leave anyway.” She stepped closer to the car. “Myron, please come inside. We’ll talk, okay?”

He shook his head.

“I know what she meant to you.”

Again he closed his eyes tight. “I’ll be at Win’s in a few hours,” he said.

“Okay. I’ll wait for you there.”

He drove off before she could say more.

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