Fade Away Page 25

“Refuse to cooperate?” Hector was grasping at the possible life preserver Myron had offered up. “No, sir, not me. I want to cooperate. I want to very much.”

Myron shook his head. “I don’t think you do.”

Hector bit down and set his polite meter on extra-strength now. “No, sir,” he said. “I want to help very much. I want to cooperate with the phone company. Tell me what I can do to help. Please.”

Myron sighed, gave it a few seconds. The diner bustled. The cash register dinged while the guy who looked homeless with the Thom McAn sneakers picked out greasy coins from a dirty hand. The griddle sizzled. The aroma from the various foods battled each other for dominance with none winning outright. Hector’s face grew more and more anxious. Enough, Myron thought. “For starters, you can tell me who was using the pay phone at nine-eighteen P.M. last Saturday.”

Hector held up a finger imploring patience. He shouted something in Spanish to the woman (Mrs. Hector maybe?) working the cash register. The woman shouted something back. She closed the drawer and walked toward them. As she drew closer, Myron noticed that Hector was suddenly giving him an odd look. Was he starting to see through Myron’s rather husky load of bull-dooky? Perhaps. But Myron looked back at him steadily and Hector quickly backed down. He might be suspicious, but not suspicious enough to risk offending the all-powerful bureaucrat by questioning his authority.

Hector whispered something to the woman. She urgently whispered back. He made an understanding “ah” noise. Then he faced Myron and shook his head.

“It figures,” he said.


“It was Sally.”


“At least I think it was Sally. My wife saw her on the phone around then. But she said she was only on for a minute or two.”

“Does Sally have a last name?”


“Is she here now?”

Hector shook his head. “She hasn’t been here since Saturday night. That’s what I mean by, figures. She gets me in trouble and then she runs out.”

“Has she called in sick?”

“No, sir. She just up and left.”

“You got an address on her?” Myron asked.

“I think so, let me see.” He pulled out a big carton that read “Snapple Peach Iced Tea” on the side. Behind him, the griddle hissed when fresh pancake batter touched down upon the hot metal. The files in the box were neat and color coded. Hector pulled one out and opened it. He shuffled through the sheets, found the one he was looking for, and frowned.

“What?” Myron prompted.

“Sally never gave us an address,” Hector said.

“How about a phone number?”

“No.” He looked up, remembering something. “She said she didn’t have a phone. That’s why she was using the one in the back so much.”

“Could you tell me what Ms. Guerro looked like?” Myron tried.

Hector suddenly looked uncomfortable. He glanced at his wife and cleared his throat. “Uh, she had brown hair,” he began. “Maybe five-four, five-five. Average height, I guess.”

“Anything else?”

“Brown eyes, I think.” He stopped. “That’s about it.”

“How old would you say she was?”

Hector checked the file again. “According to this, she was forty-five. That sounds about right.”

“How long has she worked here?” he asked.

“Two months.”

Myron nodded, rubbed his chin vigorously. “It sounds like an operative who goes by the name Carla.”


“A notorious phone fraud,” Myron continued. “We’ve been after her for a while.” He glanced left, then right. Trying to look conspiratorial. “Have you ever heard her use the name Carla or hear someone call her Carla?”

Hector looked at his wife. She shook her head. “No, never.”

“Did she have any visitors? Any friends?”

Again Hector checked with his wife. Again the head shook. “No, none that we ever saw. She kept to herself most of the time.”

Myron decided to push a little further and confirm what he already knew. If Hector balked at this stage, so what? Nothing ventured, nothing gained. He leaned forward; Hector and his wife did likewise. “This may sound insensitive,” Myron whispered, “but was this woman large chested?”

Both nods were immediate. “Very large,” Hector said.

Suspicion confirmed.

He asked a few more questions, but any useful information had already been culled from these waters. Before leaving, he told them that they were in the clear and could continue to violate code section 124B without fear. Hector almost kissed his hand. Myron felt like a louse. What did you do today, Batman? Well, Robin, I started off by terrorizing a hard-working immigrant’s livelihood with a bunch of lies. Holy Cow, Batman, you’re the coolest! Myron shook his head. What to do for an encore—throw empty beer bottles at the dog on the fire escape?

Myron exited the Parkview Diner. He debated going to the park across the street, but suppose he became overcome by a lustful need to feed rats? No, he couldn’t risk it. He’d have to stay away. He began to head to the Dyckman Street subway station when a voice stopped him.

“You looking for Sally?”

Myron turned. It was the homeless-looking man with the Thom McAns from the diner. He sat on the pavement, his back leaning against the brick building. He had an empty plastic coffee cup in his hand. Panhandling.

“You know her?” Myron asked.

“She and I …” He winked and crossed his fingers. “We met because of that damn phone, you know.”


Using the wall for support the man stood. His facial hair was whitish, not full enough to be a beard yet past the stage of a Miami Vice wanna-be. His long hair was black as coal. “Sally was using my phone all the time. It pissed me off.”

“Your phone?”

“The pay phone in the back,” he said, licking his lips. “It’s right by the back door. I hang out in the back alley a lot so I can hear it, you know? It’s kind of like my business phone.” Myron couldn’t guess his age. His face was boyish but leathered—from the passing years or hard living, Myron couldn’t say. His grin was missing a couple of prominent teeth, reminding Myron of that beloved Christmas classic “All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth.” Such a nice song really. No toys, no Sega Genesis video game. The kid just wanted teeth. So selfless really.

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