One False Move Page 75

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By the time Myron reached his third destination, it was almost four in the morning. A light was still on. No surprise really. He rang the doorbell. Mabel Edwards opened it. She was wearing a terry-cloth robe over a flannel nightgown. She started crying and reached out to hug him.

Myron stepped back.

“You killed them all,” he said. “First Anita. Then Horace. And then Brenda.”

Her mouth dropped open. “You don’t mean that.”

Myron took out his gun and placed it against the older woman’s forehead. “If you lie to me, I’ll kill you.”

Mabel’s gaze veered quickly from shock to cold defiance. “You wired, Myron?”

“No.”

“Doesn’t matter. You have a gun pointed to my head. I’ll say whatever you want.”

The gun nudged her back into the house. Myron closed the door. The photograph of Horace was still on the fireplace mantel. Myron looked at his old friend for a brief moment. Then he turned back to Mabel.

“You lied to me,” he said. “From the very beginning. Everything you told me was a lie. Anita never called you. She’s been dead for twenty years.”

“Who told you that?”

“Chance Bradford.”

She made a scoffing noise. “You shouldn’t believe a man like that.”

“The phone taps,” Myron said.

“What?”

“Arthur Bradford tapped your phone. For the last twenty years. He hoped Anita might call you. But we all know she never did.”

“That doesn’t mean anything,” Mabel said. “Maybe he just missed those calls.”

“I don’t think so. But there’s more. You told me that Horace called you last week while he was hiding. He gave you this dire warning about not trying to look for him. But again Arthur Bradford had a tap on your phone. He was looking for Horace. Why didn’t he know anything about it?”

“Guess he messed up again.”

Myron shook his head. “I just paid a visit to a dumb thug named Mario,” he went on. “I surprised him while he was sleeping, and I did some things to him I’m not proud of. By the time I was through, Mario admitted to all kinds of crimes—including trying to get information from you with his skinny partner, just like you told me. But he swears he never punched you in the eye. And I believe him. Because it was Horace who hit you.”

Brenda had called him a sexist, and he had been wondering lately about his own race issues. Now he saw the truth. His semilatent prejudices had twisted on him like a snake seizing its own tail. Mabel Edwards. The sweet old black lady. Butterfly McQueen. Miss Jane Pittman. Knitting needles and reading glasses. Big and kind and matronly. Evil could never lurk in so politically correct a form.

“You told me you moved into this house shortly after Anita disappeared. How did a widow from Newark afford it? You told me that your son worked his way through Yale Law School. Sorry, but part-time jobs do not pay that kind of money anymore.”

“So?”

He kept the gun trained on her. “You knew Horace wasn’t Brenda’s father from the beginning, didn’t you? Anita was your closest friend. You were still working at the Bradfords’ home. You must have known.”

She did not back down. “And what if I did?”

“Then you knew Anita ran away. She would have confided in you. And if she had run into a problem at the Holiday Inn, she would have called you, not Horace.”

“Could be,” Mabel said. “If you’re talking hypothetically, I guess this is all possible.”

Myron pressed the gun against her forehead, pushing her onto the couch. “Did you kill Anita for the money?”

Mabel smiled. Physically it was that same celestial smile, but now Myron thought he could see at least a hint of the decay looming beneath it. “Hypothetically, Myron, I guess I could have a bunch of motives. Money, yes—fourteen thousand dollars is a lot of money. Or sisterly love—Anita was going to leave Horace brokenhearted, right? She was going to take away the baby girl he thought was his. Maybe she was even going to tell Horace the truth about Brenda’s father. And maybe Horace would know that his only sister had helped keep the secret all those years.” She glared up at the gun. “Lots of motives, I’ll give you that.”

“How did you do it, Mabel?”

“Go home, Myron.”

Myron lifted the muzzle and poked her forehead with it. Hard. “How?”

“You think I’m scared of you?”

He poked her again with the muzzle. Harder. Then again. “How?”

“What do you mean, how?” She was spitting words now. “It would have been easy, Myron. Anita was a mother. I would have quietly shown her the gun. I would have told her if she didn’t do exactly as I said, I would kill her daughter. So Anita, the good mother, would have listened. She would have given her daughter a last hug and told her to wait in the lobby. I would have used a pillow to muffle the shot. Simple, no?”

A fresh flash of rage surged through him. “Then what happened?”

Mabel hesitated. Myron hit her with the gun again.

“I drove Brenda back to her house. Anita had left a note telling Horace she was running away and that Brenda wasn’t his child. I tore it up and wrote another.”

“So Horace never even knew that Anita had planned on taking Brenda.”

“That’s right.”

“And Brenda never said anything?”

“She was five years old, Myron. She didn’t know what was going on. She told her daddy how I picked her up and took her away from Mommy. But she didn’t remember anything about a hotel. At least that’s what I thought.”

Silence.

“When Anita’s body vanished, what did you think happened?”

“I figured that Arthur Bradford had shown up, found her dead, and did what that family always did: threw out the trash.”

Another rage flash. “And you found a way to use that. With your son, Terence, and his political career.”

Mabel shook her head. “Too dangerous,” she said. “You don’t want to stir up those Bradford boys with blackmail. I had nothing to do with Terence’s career. But truth be told, Arthur was always willing to help Terence. Terence was, after all, his daughter’s cousin.”

The anger swelled, pressing against his skull. He wanted so much simply to pull the trigger and end this. “So what happened next?”

“Oh, come now, Myron. You know the rest of the story, don’t you? Horace started looking for Anita again. After all these years. He had a lead, he said. He thought he could find her. I tried to talk him out of it, but, well, love is a funny thing.”

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