Fade Away Page 49

“Tell her to wait in the other room.”

Myron nodded to her. “It’s okay. Esperanza’s in there.”

Cyndi growled again, but she listened. She walked past the B Man on her way to Myron’s office. His gun looked like a disposable lighter next to her. She opened the door, snarled one last time, and closed it.


“Jesus Christ,” Camouflage Pants said again.

They waited approximately thirty seconds before the elevator dinged again. B Man got back into his squat and aimed. The doors slid open. Win stepped out. He looked mildly annoyed when he saw the weapon aimed his way. His voice was clipped. “I told you there would be no violence.”

“You have information we need,” B Man said.

“I’m well aware of that,” Win replied. “Now put that gun away and we’ll talk civilly.”

The B Man kept his weapon on Win. “You armed?”

“Of course.”

“Hand over your weapon.”

“No,” Win said. “And it’s not weapon. It’s weapons. Plural.”

“I said—”

“And I heard you, Orville.”

“Don’t call me that.”

Win sighed. “Fine, B Man.” He shook his head as he said it. “You are making this far more difficult than it has to be.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means that for an intelligent fellow, you too often forget that brute strength is not the only course. There are situations that call for restraint.”

Win lecturing on restraint, Myron thought. What next? Xaviera Hollander lecturing on monogamy?

“Think about what you’ve already done,” Win said. “First, you have Myron roughed up by a pair of amateurs—”

“Amateurs!” Camouflage Pants didn’t like that. “Who you calling—”

“Shut up, Tony,” B Man said.

“You hear what he called me? An amateur?”

“I said, shut up, Tony.”

But Tony The Pants wasn’t through yet. “Hey, I got feelings too, B Man.”

The B Man gave him hard eyes. “Your left femur, if you don’t shut up.”

Tony closed his mouth.

The B Man looked back to Win. “Sorry about the interruption.”

“Apology accepted.”

“Go on.”

“As I was saying,” Win continued, “first you try to rough Myron up. Then you try to kidnap and cripple him. All for naught.”

“Not for naught,” B Man countered. “We need to know where Downing is.”

“And what makes you think Myron knows?”

“You were both at his house. Then all of a sudden Bolitar is on Downing’s team. As a matter of fact, he takes his place on the roster.”


“So I’m not stupid. You two know something.”

“And what if we do?” Win said, hands spread. “Why didn’t you just ask? Did you ever even consider that possibility? Did you ever think that maybe the best course of action would be simply to ask?”

“I did ask!” Camouflage Pants jumped in. He was defensive now. “On the street! I asked him where Greg was. He gave me lip.”

Win looked at him. “Were you ever in the military?” he asked.

Pants seemed confused. “No.”

“You are a worthless punk,” Win said in the same tone he might use when discussing a mixed stock report. “A pitiful ectoplasm such as yourself wearing army fatigues is an affront to any man or woman who has ever experienced real combat. If I ever happen across you again donning any similar garb, I will hurt you severely. Do I make myself clear?”


“You don’t know this guy, Tony,” B Man interrupted. “Just nod and shut up.”

Camouflage Pants looked hurt but he did as he was told.

Win turned his attention back to the B Man. “We can help each other out in this situation,” he said.


“It just so happens that we, too, are searching for the elusive Mr. Downing. That is why I wish to make a proposal.”

“I’m listening.”

“First,” Win said, “stop aiming the weapons at us.”

B Man gave him a funny look. “How do I know I can trust you?”

“If I wanted you dead,” Win answered, “I would have killed you last night.”

The B Man thought it over, nodded, lowered his weapon. He signaled Camouflage Pants, who then did likewise. “Why didn’t you?” B Man asked. “I probably would have killed you in the same situation.”

“That’s what I mean about brute force,” Win said. “About being wasteful. We need each other here. If I had killed you, I wouldn’t be able to make this proposal today.”

“Fair enough. The floor is yours.”

“I assume that Mr. Downing owes you a rather hefty sum.”

“Very hefty sum.”

“Fine,” Win said. “You tell us what you know. We find him, no cost to you. When we do find him, you promise not to hurt him if he pays up.”

“And if he doesn’t pay up?”

Win grinned and held his hands out, palms up. “Who are we to interfere with the way you conduct your business?”

B Man thought about it, but not for very long. “Okay, I can live with that,” he said. “But I don’t talk with the hired help around.” He turned to Camouflage. “Go sit in the other room.”


“Because if someone decides to torture you, you’ll know nothing.”

That answer seemed to make perfect sense to Camouflage. He went into Myron’s office without another word.

“Why don’t we sit?” Win suggested.

They did so. B Man crossed his legs and started right in. “Downing is your basic gamble-a-holic,” he began. “He had pretty good luck for a long time. That’s a bad thing when a man has the itch. When his luck changed—as it must in the long run—he kept thinking he could win it back. They all do. When they have the sort of money that Downing has, I let them go. Let them dig their own grave. It’s good for business. But at the same time, you have to keep an eye out. There is a fine line working here. You don’t want them to end up digging to China either.” He turned and looked at Myron. “You know what I’m saying?”

Myron nodded. “China.”

“Right. Anyway, Downing started losing big. I’m talking very big here. He was never a prompt payer, but he was always good for it. I sometimes let the tab run as high as two-fifty or even three.”

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