One False Move Page 9

“Not that Batman mask again.”

“Aw, c’mon, you can wear the utility belt.”

She thought about it. “Okay, but no stopping in the middle and shouting, ‘Same Bat Time, same Bat Channel.’ ”

“Deal.”

Jessica stood, walked over to him, and sat on his lap. She hugged him and lowered her lips toward his ear. “We’ve got it good, Myron. Let’s not fuck it up.”

She was right.

She got off his lap. “Come on, let’s clear the table.”

“And then?”

Jessica nodded. “To the Batpoles.”

As soon as Myron hit the street the next morning, a black limousine pulled in front of him. Two mammoth men—muscle-headed, neckless wonders—lumbered out of the car. They wore ill-fitted business suits, but Myron did not fault their tailor. Guys built like that always looked ill fitted. They both had Gold’s Gym tans, and though he could not confirm this by sight, Myron bet that their chests were as waxed as Cher’s legs.

One of the bulldozers said, “Get in the car.”

“My mommy told me to never get in a car with strangers,” Myron said.

“Oh,” the other bulldozer said, “we got ourselves a comedian here.”

“Yeah?” The bulldozer tilted his head at Myron. “That right? You a comedian?”

“I’m also an exciting vocalist,” Myron said. “Want to hear my much-loved rendition of ‘Volare’?”

“You’ll be singing out the other end of your ass if you don’t get in the car.”

“Other end of my ass,” Myron said. He looked up as though in deep thought. “I don’t get it. Out of the end of my ass, okay, that makes sense. But out of the other end? What does that mean exactly? I mean, technically, if we follow the intestinal tract, isn’t the other end of your ass simply your mouth?”

The bulldozers looked at each other, then at Myron. Myron was not particularly scared. These thugs were delivery boys; the package was not supposed to be delivered bruised. They would take a little needling. Plus, you never show these guys fear. They smell fear, they swarm in and devour you. Of course Myron could be wrong. They might be unbalanced psychotics who’d snap at the slightest provocation. One of life’s little mysteries.

“Mr. Ache wants to see you,” Bulldozer One said.

“Which one?”

“Frank.”

Silence. This was not good. The Ache brothers were leading mob figures in New York. Herman Ache, the older brother, was the leader, a man responsible for enough suffering to make a third world dictator envious. But next to his whacked-out brother Frank, Herman Ache was about as scary as Winnie-the-Pooh.

The muscleheads cracked their necks and smiled at Myron’s silence. “Not so funny now, are you, smart guy?”

“Testicles,” Myron said, stepping toward the car. “They shrink when you use steroids.”

It was an old Bolitar rejoinder, but Myron never got tired of the classics. He had no choice really. He had to go. He slid into the backseat of the stretch limo. There was a bar and a television tuned in to Regis and Kathie Lee. Kathie Lee was regaling the audience with Cody’s most recent exploits.

“No more, I beg you,” Myron said. “I’ll tell you everything.”

The bulldozers did not get it. Myron leaned forward and snapped the television off. No one protested.

“We going to Clancy’s?” Myron asked.

Clancy’s Tavern was the Aches’ hangout. Myron had been there with Win a couple of years back. He had hoped never to return.

“Sit back and shut up, asshole.”

Myron kept still. They took the West Side Highway north—in the opposite direction of Clancy’s Tavern. They turned right at Fifty-seventh Street. When they hit a Fifth Avenue parking garage, Myron realized where they were headed.

“We’re going to TruPro’s office,” he said out loud.

The bulldozers said nothing. Didn’t matter. He had not said it for their benefit anyway.

TruPro was one of the larger sports agencies in the country. For years it’d been operated by Roy O’Connor, a snake in a suit, who had been nothing if not an expert in how to break the rules. O’Connor was the master of illegally signing athletes when they were barely out of diapers, using payoffs and subtle extortion. But like so many who flitted in and out of the world of corruption, Roy inevitably got nuked. Myron had seen it happen before. A guy figures he can be a “little pregnant,” a tad enmeshed with the underworld. But the mob does not work that way. You give them an inch, they take the whole damn yardstick. That was what had happened to TruPro. Roy owed money, and when he couldn’t pay up, the appropriately named Ache brothers took control.

“Move it, asshole.”

Myron followed Bubba and Rocco—if those weren’t their names, they should have been—into the elevator. They got out on the eighth floor and headed past the receptionist. She kept her head down but sneaked a glance. Myron waved to her and kept moving. They stopped in front of an office door.

“Search him.”

Bulldozer One started patting him down.

Myron closed his eyes. “God,” he said. “This feels good. A little left.”

Bulldozer stopped, threw him a glare. “Go in.”

Myron opened the door and entered the office.

Frank Ache spread his arms and stepped toward him. “Myron!”

Whatever fortune Frank Ache had amassed, the man never did spend it on clothes. He favored chintzy velour sweat suits, like something the guys on Lost in Space might consider casual wear. The one Frank sported today was burnt orange with yellow trim. The top was zippered lower than a Cosmo cover, his gray chest hair so thick it looked like a natty sweater. He had a huge head, tiny shoulders, and a spare tire that was the envy of the Michelin man—an hourglass figure with all the time run out. He was big and puffy and the kind of bald where the top of the head looks like it exploded through the hair during an earthquake.

Frank gave Myron a ferocious bear hug. Myron was taken aback. Frank was usually about as cuddly as a jackal with shingles.

He pulled Myron to arm’s length. “Sheesh, Myron, you’re looking good.”

Myron tried not to wince. “Thanks, Frank.”

Frank offered him a big smile—two rows of corn-kernel teeth jam-packed together. Myron tried not to flinch. “How long’s it been?”

“A little over a year.”

“We were at Clancy’s, right?”

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