Fade Away Page 56

That made her eyes widen. “What?”

“Greg Downing is a serious suspect in a murder investigation. If it is discovered that you in some way helped him, that would make you an accessory.” He stopped, frowned. “But to be frank, I don’t think the D.A. will get a conviction. No matter. I’ll start with your reputation. We’ll see how it goes from there.”

Thumper looked at him steadily. “Mr. Lockwood?”


“Go fuck yourself,” she said.

Win rose. “Undeniably a better option than present company.” He smiled and bowed. If he had a hat, he would have tipped it. “Good day.”

He moved away, head high. There was, of course, a method to such madness. She would not talk. He knew that almost immediately. She was both smart and loyal. A dangerous albeit admirable combination. But what he had said would jar her. Even the best amongst us would panic or at the very least act. He would wait outside and follow her.

He checked the scoreboard. Midway through the second quarter. He had no interest in watching any more of this game. But as he reached the gate, a buzz came over the loudspeaker and then a voice said, “Now coming in for Troy Erickson, Myron Bolitar.”

Win hesitated. Then he took another step for the exit. He did not wish to watch. But he stopped again and, still standing, he faced the court.

Chapter 26

Myron sat at the far end of the bench. He knew that he wasn’t going to play, but his chest was still wrapped in the steel bands of pregame jitters. In his younger days Myron had enjoyed the pressure of big-time competition, even when the jitters reached a level of near paralysis. They never lasted long after the opening tip. Once he had physical contact with an opponent or chased down a loose ball or shot a fade-away jumper, the butterflies flew off, the crowd’s cheers and jeers dissolving into something akin to office background music.

Pregame jitters hadn’t been a part of Myron’s existence for over a decade, and he knew now what he’d always suspected: this nerve-jangled high was directly connected to basketball. Nothing else. He had never experienced anything similar in his business or personal life. Even violent confrontations—a perverted high if ever there was one—were not exactly like this. He had thought this uniquely sports-related sensation would ebb away with age and maturity, when a young man no longer takes a small event like a basketball game and blows it into an entity of near biblical importance, when something so relatively insignificant in the long run is no longer magnified to epic dimensions through the prism of youth. An adult, of course, can see what is useless to explain to a child—that one particular school dance or missed foul shot would be no more than a pang in the future. Yet here Myron was, comfortably ensconced in his thirties and still feeling the same heightened and raw sensations he had known only in youth. They hadn’t gone away with age. They’d just hibernated—as Calvin had warned him—hoping for a chance to stir, a chance that normally never came in one man’s lifetime.

Were his friends right? Was this all too much for him? Had he not put this all behind him? He spotted Jessica in the stands. She was watching the action, that funny look of concentration on her face. She alone seemed unconcerned by his return, but then again, she had not been a part of his life in his basketball heyday. Did the woman he loved not understand, or did she—?

He stopped.

When you are on the bench, an arena can be a small place. He saw, for example, Win speaking with Thumper. He saw Jessica. He saw the other players’ wives and girlfriends. And then, entering from a gate dead straight in front of him, he saw his parents. His eyes quickly fled back to the court. He clapped his hands and yelled out encouragement to his teammates, pretending to be interested in the outcome of the game. His mom and dad. They must have flown in early from their trip.

He risked a quick glance. They sat near Jessica now, in the family and friends section. His mom was staring back at him. Even from the distance he could see the lost look in her glassy eyes. Dad’s eyes darted about, his jaw taut, as though he were summoning up a little extra before looking at the court straight-on. Myron understood. This was all too familiar, like an old family film coming to life. He looked away again.

Leon White came out of the game. He grabbed an empty seat next to Myron. A towel boy draped his sweat top around his shoulders and gave him a squeeze bottle. Leon guzzled some Gatorade, his body glistening with sweat.

“Saw you talking with Thumper last night,” Leon said.


“You get some?”

Myron shook his head. “I remain thump-less.”

Leon chuckled. “Anyone tell you how she got that nickname?”


“When she gets into it—I mean, when she gets really fired up—she’s got this habit of thumping her leg up and down. Left leg. Always her left leg, you know. So she’s like on her back and you’re pumping her for all you’re worth and then all of a sudden her left leg starts bopping up and down. You hear thump-thump, get it?”

Myron nodded. He got it.

“So if she don’t do that—if a guy don’t get Thumper thumping—it’s like you haven’t done your duty. You can’t show your face. You hang your head.” Then he added, “It’s a pretty serious tradition.”

“Like lighting a menorah on Hanukkah,” Myron said.

Leon laughed. “Well, not exactly.”

“You ever been thumped, Leon?”

“Sure, once.” Then he quickly added, “But that was before I was married.”

“How long you been married?”

“Me and Fiona been married a little over a year.”

Myron’s heart plummeted down an elevator shaft. Fiona. Leon’s wife’s name was Fiona. He looked up in the stands at the flashy, well-rounded blonde. Fiona began with the letter F.


Myron looked up. It was Donny Walsh, the head coach. “Yeah?”

“Go in for Erickson.” Walsh said it like the words were fingernail clippings he needed to spit out. “Take the off guard spot. Put Kiley at the point.”

Myron looked at his coach as if he were speaking Swahili. It was the second quarter. The score was tied.

“What the fuck you waiting for, Bolitar? For Erickson. Now.”

Leon slapped his back. “Go, man.”

Myron stood. His legs felt like strung-out Slinkys. Thoughts of murder and disappearances fled like bats in a spotlight. He tried to swallow but his mouth was bone dry. He jogged over to the scorer’s table. The arena spun like the bed of a drunk. Without conscious thought he discarded his sweats on the floor like a snake changing skin. He nodded at the scorer. “For Erickson,” he said. Ten seconds later, a buzzer sounded. “Now coming in the game for Troy Erickson, Myron Bolitar.”

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