Fade Away Page 50

“Hundred thousand?” Myron asked.

“Yeah.” B Man smiled. “You don’t know any gamblers, do you?”

Myron kept silent. He wasn’t about to tell this slime bucket his life story.

“It’s as bad as alcohol or heroin,” B Man went on. “They can’t stop themselves. In some ways, it’s even worse. People drink and do drugs to escape despair. Gambling has that element, too, but it also offers you the friendly hand of hope. You always got hope when you gamble. You always believe that you’re just one bet away from turning it all around. It’s a catch-twenty-two. If you got hope, you keep on gambling. But with gambling, there’s always hope.”

“Very deep,” Win said. “Let’s get back to Greg Downing.”

“Simply put, Greg stops paying his tab. It runs up to half a million. I start putting some pressure on him. He tells me he’s flat broke, but I shouldn’t worry because he’s signing some big endorsement deal that will net him zillions.”

The Forte deal, Myron thought. Greg’s sudden change of heart about endorsement money made more sense now.

“I asked him when this endorsement money will be coming in. He tells me in about six months. Six months? On a half million dollar debt and growing? I told him that’s not good enough. He’d have to pay up now. He said he didn’t have the money. So I ask for a show of good faith.”

Myron knew where this was going. “He shaved points.”

“Wrong. He was supposed to shave points. The Dragons were favored by eight over Charlotte. Downing was going to see to it that the Dragons won by less than eight. No big deal.”

“He agreed?”

“Sure he did. The game was on Sunday. I dumped a ton on Charlotte. A ton.”

“And Greg never played,” Myron finished for him.

“You got it,” B Man said. “The Dragons won by twelve. Okay, I figure Greg got hurt. Like the papers say. A freak injury, that’s not his fault. Don’t get me wrong. He’s still responsible for what I lost. Why should I pay for his freak injury?” He paused to see if anyone was going to argue with his logic. No one bothered. “So I waited for Downing to call me, but he never did. I’m owed close to two million by now. Win, you know I can’t just sit back with that kind of thing, right?”

Win nodded.

“When was the last time Greg made a payment to you?” Myron asked.

“It’s been a while. I don’t know. Five, six months maybe.”

“Nothing more recent?”


They talked a bit more. Esperanza, Big Cyndi, Camouflage, and Brick Wall came back into the room. Win and B Man changed the topic to martial art buddies they had in common. A few minutes later B Man and his entourage left. When the elevator door closed, Big Cyndi turned and smiled widely at Esperanza. Then she began to skip in a circle. The floor shook.

Myron looked a question at Esperanza.

“That big guy,” Esperanza said, “the one who was with us in the other room.”

“What about him?”

“He asked Cyndi for her phone number.”

Big Cyndi continued skipping with childlike abandon. The occupants of the floor beneath them were probably diving for cover like it was the last day of Pompeii. He turned to Win. “Did you catch the fact that Greg hadn’t paid anything in months?”

Win nodded. “Clearly the fifty thousand dollars he withdrew before his disappearance was not to pay off gambling debts.”

“So what was it for?”

“To run, I imagine.”

“So he knew at least four days before the fact that he was going to take off,” Myron said.

“It would appear so.”

Myron thought about that for a moment. “Then the timing of the murder can’t just be a coincidence. If Greg planned to disappear, it can’t be a coincidence that the day he takes off is the day Liz Gorman gets killed.”

“Doubtful,” Win agreed.

“You think Greg killed her?”

“The clues point in that direction,” Win said. “I mentioned to you that the money had come from an account handled by Marty Felder. Perhaps Mr. Felder has an answer.”

Myron wondered about that. Big Cyndi suddenly stopped skipping. She hugged Esperanza and made a la-la noise. Young love. “If Felder knew Greg was going into hiding,” Myron said, “why would he leave those messages on Greg’s machine?”

“Perhaps to throw us off. Or perhaps he did not know Greg’s intent.”

“I’ll call him,” Myron said. “See if I can make an appointment for tomorrow.”

“You have a game tonight, do you not?”


“What time?”

“Seven-thirty.” Myron checked his watch. “But I need to leave pretty soon if I want to talk to Clip first.”

“I’ll drive,” Win said. “I’d like to meet this Mr. Arnstein.”

After they left, Esperanza went through the messages on the voice mail. Then she straightened out her desk. Her two photographs—one of her bearded collie Chloe getting Best in Breed at the Westchester Dog Show; the other of her as Little Pocahontas and Big Cyndi as Big Chief Mama, holding up their FLOW (Fabulous Ladies Of Wrestling) tag-team title belts—had been knocked askew by Cyndi’s knees.

As she stared at the photographs, something Myron said kept needling her. He was worried about timing. The timing of the murder. The timing of Downing’s disappearance. But what about Liz Gorman’s timing? What about the timing of her arrival in New York City? The bank in Tucson was robbed two months ago; Liz Gorman also started working for the Parkview Diner two months ago. A criminal on the run would want to get far away from the crime scene, yes, but to a place as populated as New York City? Why?

The more Esperanza thought about it, the more she grew bewildered. There had to be a cause and effect at work here. There had to be something about the bank heist that made Liz Gorman come out this way. Esperanza chewed on this for another minute or two. Then she picked up the phone and called one of Myron and Win’s closest contacts at the Bureau.

“They need everything you got on the Raven Brigade bank heist in Tucson,” Esperanza said. “Can you send me a copy of the file?”

“You’ll have it by tomorrow morning.”

Chapter 24

Win and Myron shared a somewhat unusual passion for Broadway musicals. Right now, the stereo system in Win’s Jag was pumping out the sound track from 1776. A Continental Congressman cried out, “Somebody better open up a window!” This led to a fierce argument over the merits of opening said window (it was “hot as hell in Philadelphia”) vs. keeping them closed (“too many flies”). Interspersed in this argument, people were telling John Adams to sit down. History.

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