One False Move Page 76

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“Horace found out about the Holiday Inn,” Myron said.

“Yes.”

“He spoke to a woman named Caroline Gundeck.”

Mabel shrugged. “I never heard the woman’s name.”

“I just woke Ms. Gundeck out of a sound sleep,” Myron said. “Scared her half to death. But she talked to me. Just like she talked to Horace. She was a maid back then, and she knew Anita. You see, Anita used to work hotel functions to make a little extra money. Caroline Gundeck remembered seeing Anita there that night. She was surprised because Anita checked in as a guest, not a worker. She also remembered seeing Anita’s little daughter. And she remembered seeing Anita’s daughter leave with another woman. A strung-out drug addict is how she described the woman. I wouldn’t have guessed it was you. But Horace would have.”

Mabel Edwards said nothing.

“Horace figured it out after hearing that. So he came charging over here. Still in hiding. Still with all that money on him—eleven grand. And he hit you. He got so angry that he punched you in the eye. And then you killed him.”

She shrugged again. “It almost sounds like self-defense.”

“Almost,” Myron agreed. “With Horace, it was easy. He was on the run already. All you had to do was continue to make it look like he was in hiding. He would be a black man on the run, not a homicide. Who would care? It was like Anita all over again. All these years you did the little things to make people think she was still alive. You wrote letters. You faked phone calls. Whatever. So you decided to do the same again. Hell, it worked once, right? But the problem was, you weren’t as good at getting rid of the dead as Sam.”

“Sam?”

“The man who worked for the Bradfords,” Myron said. “My guess is that Terence helped you move the bodies.”

She smiled. “Don’t underestimate my strength, Myron. I’m not helpless.”

He nodded. She was right. “I keep giving you these other motives, but my guess is that it was mostly about money. You got fourteen thousand from Anita. You got eleven thousand from Horace. And your own husband, dear, sweet Roland whose picture you wept over, had an insurance policy, I’d bet.”

She nodded. “Only five thousand dollars, poor soul.”

“But enough for you. Shot in the head near his very own home. No witnesses. And the police had arrested you three times the previous year—twice for petty theft and once for drug possession. Seems your downward spiral began before Roland was killed.”

Mabel sighed. “Are we done now?”

“No,” he said.

“I think we covered everything, Myron.”

He shook his head. “Not Brenda.”

“Oh, right, of course.” She leaned back a bit. “You seem to have all the answers, Myron. Why did I kill Brenda?”

“Because,” Myron said, “of me.”

Mabel actually smiled. He felt his finger tighten on the trigger.

“I’m right, aren’t I?”

Mabel just kept smiling.

“As long as Brenda didn’t remember the Holiday Inn, she wasn’t a threat. But I was the one who told you about our visit there. I was the one who told you she was having memories. And that’s when you knew you had to kill her.”

She just kept smiling.

“And with Horace’s body found and Brenda already a murder suspect, your job became easier. Frame Brenda and make her disappear. You kill two birds with one stone. So you planted the gun under Brenda’s mattress. But again you had trouble getting rid of the body. You shot her and dumped her in the woods. My guess is that you planned on coming back another day when you had more time. What you didn’t count on was the search party finding her so soon.”

Mabel Edwards shook her head. “You sure can spin a tale, Myron.”

“It’s not a tale. We both know that.”

“And we both know you can’t prove any of this.”

“There will be fibers, Mabel. Hairs, threads, something.”

“So what?” Again her smile poked his heart like a pair of knitting needles. “You saw me hug my niece right here in this very room. If her body has fibers or threads, they’d be from that. And Horace visited me before he was murdered. I told you that. So maybe that’s how he got hairs or fibers on him—if they even found any.”

A hot bolt of fury exploded inside his head, almost blinding him. Myron pressed the barrel hard against her forehead. His hand started quaking. “How did you do it?”

“Do what?”

“How did you get Brenda to leave practice?”

She didn’t blink. “I said I’d found her mother.”

Myron closed his eyes. He tried to hold the gun steady. Mabel stared at him.

“You won’t shoot me, Myron. You’re not the kind of man who shoots a woman in cold blood.”

He didn’t pull the gun away.

Mabel reached up with her hand. She pushed the barrel away from her face. Then she got up, tightened her robe, and walked away.

“I’m going to bed now,” she said. “Close the door on your way out.”

He did close the door.

He drove back to Manhattan. Win and Esperanza were waiting for him. They did not ask him where he’d been. And he did not tell them. In fact, he never told them.

He called Jessica’s loft. The machine answered. When the beep sounded, he said that he planned on staying with Win for a while. He didn’t know for how long. But awhile.

Roy Pomeranz and Eli Wickner were found dead in the cabin two days later. An apparent murder-suicide. Livingstonites speculated, but no one ever knew what had driven Eli over the edge. The Eli Wickner Little League backstop was immediately renamed.

Esperanza went back to work at MB SportsReps. Myron did not.

The homicides of Brenda Slaughter and Horace Slaughter remain unsolved.

Nothing that happened at Bradford Farms that night was ever reported. A publicist for the Bradford campaign confirmed that Chance Bradford had recently undergone knee surgery to repair a nagging tennis injury. He was recovering nicely.

Jessica did not return the phone message.

And Myron told only one person about his final meeting with Mabel Edwards.

SEPTEMBER 15

Two Weeks Later

The cemetery overlooked a schoolyard.

There is nothing as heavy as grief. Grief is the deepest pit in the blackest ocean, the bottomless ravine. It is all-consuming. It suffocates. It paralyzes as no severed nerve could.

He spent much time here now.

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