Fade Away Page 69

Emily opened a cabinet and took out a coffee mug. The mug had a picture of some cartoon character. The words WORLD’S GREATEST MOM were emblazoned on the side. “I’m making enough for two,” she said.

“No thank you.”

“You sure?”

“Yes,” Myron said. “What happened next?”

She bent down and peered into the coffee press like it was a crystal ball. “A few days after this, Greg did something to me.…” She stopped. Her tone was different now, the words coming slower and with more care. “It’s like I told you last time you were here. He did something awful. The details aren’t important.”

Myron nodded but said nothing. No reason to raise the videotape now and knock her off stride. Facilitate her—that was the key.

“So when she came back and told me Greg was willing to pay big for her silence, I told her I’d pay more to make her talk. She told me it would cost a lot. I told her I didn’t care how much. I tried to appeal to her as a woman. I went so far as to tell her about my situation, how Greg was trying to take my kids away from me. She seemed to sympathize, but she also made it clear that she couldn’t afford to be philanthropic. If I wanted the information, I’d have to pay up.”

“Did she tell you how much?”

“One hundred thousand dollars.”

Myron held back a whistle. Serious double dipping. Liz Gorman’s strategy was probably to keep collecting from both of them, bleeding them both for as long as she thought it was safe. Or maybe she was hitting hard and fast because she knew she would have to go underground again. Either way, it made sense from Liz Gorman’s perspective to collect from all interested parties—Greg, Clip, and Emily. Take money for silence. Take money to sing. Blackmailers have the loyalty of election-year politicians.

“Do you know what she had on Greg?” he asked.

Emily shook her head. “She wouldn’t tell me.”

“But you were prepared to pay her a hundred grand?”


“Even though you didn’t know what it was for?”


Myron gestured with both hands. “How did you know she wasn’t just a crackpot?”

“The truth? I didn’t know. But I was going to lose my kids, for chrissake. I was desperate.”

And, Myron thought, Emily had shown that desperation to Liz Gorman who, in turn, took full advantage of it. “So you still have no idea what she had on him?”

Emily shook her head. “None.”

“Could it have been Greg’s gambling?”

Her eyes narrowed in confusion. “What about it?”

“Did you know Greg gambled?”

“Sure. But so what?”

“Do you know how much he gambled?” Myron asked.

“Just a little,” she said. “A trip to Atlantic City once in a while. Maybe fifty dollars on a football game.”

“Is that what you thought?”

Her eyes moved over his face, trying to read it. “What are you saying?”

Myron looked out the back window. The pool was still covered, but some of the robins had returned from the yearly aliya to the south. A dozen or so crowded a bird feeder, heads down, wings flapping happily like dog tails. “Greg is a compulsive gambler,” Myron said. “He’s lost away millions over the years. Felder didn’t embezzle money—Greg lost it gambling.”

Emily gave him a little head shake. “That can’t be,” she said. “I lived with him for almost ten years. I would have seen something.”

“Gamblers learn how to hide it,” Myron said. “They lie and cheat and steal—anything to keep on betting. It’s an addiction.”

Something in her eyes seemed to spark up. “And that’s what this woman had on Greg? The fact that he gambled?”

“I think so,” Myron said. “But I can’t say for sure.”

“But Greg definitely gambled, right? To the point where he lost all his money?”


The answer kindled Emily’s face with hope. “Then no judge in the world would award him custody,” she said. “I’ll win.”

“A judge is more likely to give the kids to a gambler than a murderer,” Myron said. “Or someone who plants false evidence.”

“I told you already. It’s not false.”

“So you say,” Myron said. “But let’s get back to what happened with the blackmailer. You were saying she wanted a hundred grand.”

Emily moved back to her coffee press. “That’s right.”

“How were you to pay her?”

“She told me to wait by a pay phone outside a Grand Union supermarket on Saturday night. I was supposed to get there at midnight and have the money ready. She called at midnight on the dot and gave me an address on One Hundred Eleventh Street. I was supposed to get there at two in the morning.”

“So you drove to One Hundred Eleventh Street at two in the morning with one hundred thousand dollars?” He tried not to sound too incredulous.

“I could only raise sixty thousand,” she corrected.

“Did she know that?”

“No. Look, I know this all sounds crazy, but you don’t understand how desperate I was. I would have done anything at this point.”

Myron understood. He had seen up-close how far mothers would go. Love twists; maternal love twists absolutely. “Go on,” he said.

“When I turned the corner, I saw Greg come out of the building,” Emily said. “I was stunned. He had his collar up, but I could still see his face.” She looked up at Myron. “I was married to him a long time, but I’ve never seen his face like this.”

“Like what?”

“So filled with terror,” she replied. “He practically sprinted toward Amsterdam Avenue. I waited until he turned the corner. Then I approached the door and pressed her apartment button. Nobody answered. I started pressing other buttons. Somebody finally buzzed me in. I went upstairs and knocked on her door for a while. Then I tried the knob. It was unlocked. So I opened the door.”

Emily stopped. A trembling hand brought the cup up to her lips. She took a sip.

“This is going to sound awful,” she went on, “but I didn’t see a dead human being lying there. I only saw my last hope of keeping my kids.”

“So you decided to plant evidence.”

Emily put down the cup and looked at him. Her eyes were clear. “Yes. And you were right about everything else too. I chose the playroom because I knew he’d never go down there. I figured that when Greg got back home—I didn’t know he’d run—the blood would be safe. Look, I know I went too far, but it’s not like I was lying. He killed her.”

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