Fade Away Page 26

“I used to have my own cellular,” the man continued. “Two of them, as a matter of fact. But they got stolen. And the damn things are so unreliable, especially around the high buildings. And anyone can listen in with the right equipment. Me, I need to keep what I do secret, you see. Spies are everywhere. And they also give you brain tumors. The electrons or something. Brain tumors the size of beach balls.”

Myron kept his face blank. “Uh huh.” Speaking of tossing the bull.

“So anyway Sally started using it, too. It pissed me off, you know? I mean, I’m a businessman. I got important calls coming in. I can’t have the line tied up. Am I right?”

“As rain,” Myron said.

“See, I’m a Hollywood screenwriter.” He stuck out his hand. “Norman Lowenstein.”

Myron tried to remember the fake name he used with Hector. “Bernie Worley.”

“Nice to meet you, Bernie.”

“Do you know where Sally Guerro lives?”

“Sure. We used to be …” Norman Lowenstein crossed his fingers.

“So I heard. Could you tell me where she lives?”

Norman Lowenstein pursed his lips and used his pointer finger to scratch a spot near his throat. “I’m not real good with addresses and stuff,” he said. “But I could take you there.”

Myron wondered how big of a waste of time this was going to be. “Would you mind?”

“Sure, no problem. Let’s go.”

“Which way?”

“The A train,” Norman said. “Down to One Hundred Twenty-fifth Street.”

They walked toward the subway.

“You go the movies much, Bernie?” Norman asked.

“Much as the next guy, I guess.”

“Let me tell you something about movie-making,” he began, growing more animated. “It’s not all glamour and glitz. It’s a dog-eat-dog business like no other, making dreams for people. All the back-stabbing, all that money, all that fame and attention … it makes people act funny, you know? I got this screenplay with Paramount right now. They’re talking to Willis about it. Bruce Willis. He’s really interested.”

“Good luck with it,” Myron said.

Norman beamed. “Thanks, Bernie, that’s real nice of you. I mean it. Real nice. I’d like to tell you what my flick is about, but well, my hands are tied. You know how it is. Hollywood and all the theft out there. The studio wants it kept hush-hush.”

“I understand,” Myron said.

“I trust you, Bernie, it’s not that. But the studios insist. I can’t blame them really. They got to protect their interests, right?”


“It’s an action-adventure flick, that much I can tell you. But with heart too, you know? Not just a shoot-em-up. Harrison Ford wanted in, but he’s too old. I guess Willis is okay. He’s not my first choice, but what can you do?”

“Uh huh.”

One Twenty-fifth Street was not the nicest stop in the city. It was safe enough during the day, Myron surmised, but the fact that he was now carrying a gun made him feel a tad more secure. Myron did not like “packing heat” and rarely did so. It was not that Myron was particularly squeamish; it had more to do with comfort. The shoulder holster dug into his armpit and made it itch like he was wearing a tweed condom. But after last night’s soiree with Camouflage Pants and Brick Wall, it would be foolhardy to walk around unarmed.

“Which way?” Myron asked.


They headed south on Broadway. Norman regaled him with tales of Hollywood. The ins and outs. Myron nodded and kept walking. The farther south they headed, the better the area became. They passed the familiar iron gates of Columbia University, then turned left. “It’s right up here,” Norman said. “Toward the middle of the block.”

The street was lined with low-rise apartments that were mostly used by Columbia’s grad students and professors. Strange, Myron thought, that a diner waitress would live here. But then again nothing else about her involvement in all this made sense—why should where she lived? If she lived here at all, and not, say, with Bruce Willis in Hollywood.

Norman interrupted his thoughts. “You’re trying to help her, right?”


Norman stopped walking. He was less animated now. “All that stuff about being from the phone company. That was all crap, right?”

Myron said nothing.

“Look,” he said, putting his hand on Myron’s forearm, “Hector is a good man. He came to this country with nothing. He works his ass off in that diner. He and his wife and son—they slave there every day. No days off. And every day he’s scared someone’s going to take it all away from him. All that worry … it clouds the thinking, you know? Me, I got nothing to lose so I’m not afraid of anything. Makes it easier to see some stuff. Know what I mean?”

Myron gave a slight nod.

Norman’s bright eyes dimmed as a bit of reality swept through him. Myron looked at him, really looked at him, for the first time. He made his eyes stop sweeping by him with barely a notice of age or height or even species. Myron realized that behind the lies and self-delusion lay the dreams of any man, the hopes and wants and needs that are the sole reserve of the human race.

“I’m worried about Sally,” Norman went on. “Maybe that’s clouding my thinking. But I know she wouldn’t just up and leave without saying good-bye to me. Sally wouldn’t do that.” He stopped, met Myron’s eyes with his own. “You’re not from the phone company, are you?”

“No, I’m not.”

“You want to help her?”

“Yes,” Myron said. “I want to help her.”

He nodded and pointed. “In here. Apartment two E.”

Myron walked up the stoop while Norman stayed on the street level. He pressed the black button reading 2E. No one answered. No surprise there. He tried the entrance door, but it was locked. You had to be buzzed in.

“You better stay there,” he told Norman. Norman nodded, understanding. These buzzer-protected doors were mild deterrents to crime, but their true purpose was to prevent vagrants from coming in and setting up camp in the lobby. Myron would just wait. Eventually an occupant would leave or enter the building. While said occupant opened the door, Myron would enter as though he belonged. No one would question a man dressed in khakis and a button-down BD Baggies shirt. If Norman stood next to him, however, that same occupant might react differently.

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