Fade Away Page 4

“Come on. Let’s get you ready for the big debut.”

Calvin Johnson walked fluidly, back straight. He was black, six-foot-eight, thin but not gawky or disproportionate. He wore an olive Brooks Brothers suit. Perfectly tailored. Perfectly knotted tie. Perfectly shined shoes. His tightly kinked hair was receding, making his forehead overly prominent and shiny. When Myron matriculated at Duke, Calvin had been a senior at North Carolina. That made him around thirty-five years old, though he looked older. Calvin had enjoyed a solid pro career over eleven seasons. When he retired three years ago, everyone knew he’d end up in the front office. He started off as an assistant coach, moved to player personnel, and just recently was promoted to vice president and general manager of the New Jersey Dragons. These however were just titles. Clip ran the show. General managers, vice presidents, player personnel, trainers, even coaches all bent to his will.

“I hope you’re all right with this,” Calvin said.

“Why wouldn’t I be all right?”

Calvin shrugged. “I played against you,” he said.


“You were the most competitive son of a bitch I ever faced,” Calvin said. “You’d stomp on someone’s head to win. Now you’re going to be a pissant bench-warmer. How’s that going to sit with you?”

“I can handle it,” Myron said.

“Uh huh.”

“I’ve mellowed over the years.”

Calvin shook his head. “I don’t think so.”


“You may think you’ve mellowed. You may even think you’ve got basketball out of your system.”

“I have.”

Calvin stopped, smiled, spread his arms. “Sure you have. Just look at you. You could be the poster child for life after sports. A fine example to your fellow athletes. Your whole career crashed down around your ears, but you rose to the challenge. You went back to school—at Harvard Law nonetheless. You started up your own business—a growing company in the field of sports representation. You still dating that writer?”

He meant Jessica. Their togetherness seemed to always be an iffy thing but Myron said, “Yes.”

“So you got the education, the job, and the gorgeous girlfriend. Yep, on the outside you’re happy and well adjusted.”

“On the inside too.”

Calvin shook his head. “I don’t think so.”

Everyone’s Dr. Joyce Brothers. “Hey, I didn’t ask to be put on the team.”

“No, but you didn’t argue much either—except to up your price.”

“I’m an agent. That’s what I do. I up the price.”

Calvin stopped and looked at Myron. “Do you really think you have to be on the team to find Greg?”

“Clip seemed to think so.”

“Clip is a great man,” Calvin said, “but he often has ulterior motives.”

“Like what?”

Calvin did not respond. He started walking again.

They reached the elevator. Calvin pressed the button and the doors immediately slid open. They stepped inside and began to descend. “Look me in the eye,” Calvin said. “Look me in the eye and tell me you never think about playing again.”

“Who doesn’t think about it?” Myron countered.

“Yeah, but tell me you don’t take it one step further. Tell me you never drift off and dream about making a comeback. Even now, when you’re watching a game on TV, tell me you don’t sit there and do a slow burn. Tell me you never watch Greg and think about all the adulation and fame. Tell me you never say, ‘I was better than him,’ because it’s the truth. Greg is great. One of the top ten players in the league. But you were better, Myron. We both know that.”

“Long time ago,” Myron said.

Calvin smiled. “Yeah,” he said. “Right.”

“What’s your point?”

“You’re here to find Greg. Once he’s found, you’re gone. The novelty will be over. Clip will be able to say he gave you a chance, but you weren’t up to the challenge. He’ll still be the good guy with the good press.”

“Good press,” Myron repeated, remembering the upcoming press conference. “One of his ulterior motives?”

Calvin shrugged. “Doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you understand you don’t have a chance. You’re only going to play during scrub time and we rarely win or lose by a lot so that doesn’t happen and even if it does, even if you play spectacularly, we both know it’s scrub time. And you won’t play well because you are such a competitive son of a bitch, you need the points to mean something to the outcome of the game or you don’t play your best.”

“I understand,” Myron said.

“I hope you do, my friend.” Calvin looked up at the numbered lights. The lights flickered in his brown eyes. “Dreams never die. Sometimes you think they’re dead, but they’re just hibernating like some big old bear. And if the dream has been hibernating for a long time, that bear is going to wake up grumpy and hungry.”

“You should write country songs,” Myron said.

Calvin shook his head. “Just giving a friend fair warning.”

“Much obliged. Now why don’t you tell me what you know about Greg’s disappearance?”

The elevator stopped and the doors opened. Calvin led the way. “Not much to tell,” he said. “We played against the Sixers in Philly. After the game Greg got on the bus with everybody else. When we got here, he got off the bus with everybody else. The last time anyone saw him he was getting into his car. The end.”

“How did Greg seem that night?”

“Fine. He played well against Philly. Scored twenty-seven points.”

“And his mood?”

Calvin thought about it. “Nothing I noticed,” he said.

“Anything new going on in his life?”


“Changes, that kind of thing.”

“Well, the divorce,” Calvin said. “It’s been nasty. I understand Emily can be quite difficult.” He stopped walking again and smiled at Myron. The Cheshire cat smile. Myron stopped but did not return the smile.

“Something on your mind, Frosty?”

The smile spread a bit farther. “Weren’t you and Emily an item at one time?”

“A lifetime ago.”

“College sweethearts, if I recall.”

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