Fade Away Page 73

By the time he reached the bottom step, Myron was bathed in darkness, the light from above little more than a distant glint. Great. He stepped into a black hole of a room. He cocked his head, listening for a sound like a dog on a hunt. Nothing. He felt for a light switch. Again nothing. The room had a bone-chilling, windless cold. A damp smell permeated his surroundings. He didn’t like it down here. He didn’t like it at all.

He inched forward blindly, his arms outstretched like Frankenstein’s monster. “Cole,” he called out. “I just want to talk to you.”

His words echoed hard before fading out like a song on the radio.

He kept going. The room was still as … well, as a tomb. He had moved about five feet when his outstretched fingers hit something. Myron kept his hand on the smooth, cold surface. Like marble, he thought. He traced down. It was a statue of some sort. He felt the arm, the shoulder, to the back, down a marble wing. He wondered if it was some kind of tombstone decoration and quickly withdrew his hand.

He stayed perfectly still and tried to listen again. The only sound was a rushing in his ears, like seashells were pressed against them. He debated going back upstairs, but there was no way he could do that. Cole knew now that his identity was in danger. He would go into hiding again and not resurface. This was Myron’s only chance.

He took another step, leading now with his foot. His toe hit something hard and unyielding. Marble again, he figured. He circled around it. Then a sound—a scurrying sound—made him freeze in his tracks. It had come from the ground. Not a mouse. Too big for a mouse. He cocked his head again and waited. His pulse raced. His eyes were just beginning to adjust to the darkness, and he could make out a few shadowy, tall figures. Statues. Lowered heads. He imagined the serene expressions of religious art on their faces, looking down at him with the knowledge they were embarking on a journey to a better place than the one in which they dwelled.

He took another step, and cold fingers of flesh grabbed his ankle.

Myron screamed.

The hand pulled and Myron fell hard against the cement. He kicked his leg loose and scrambled backward. His back slammed into more marble. A man giggled madly. Myron felt the hairs on the nape of his neck stand up. Another man giggled. Then another. Like a group of hyenas were encircling him.

Myron tried to get to his feet, but midway up, the men suddenly pounced. He didn’t know how many. Hands dragged him back to the floor. He threw a blind fist and connected square into a face. Myron heard a crunching sound and a man fell. But others reached their target. He found himself sprawled on the wet cement, fighting blindly and frantically. He heard grunts. The stench of body odor and alcohol was suffocating, inescapable. The hands were everywhere now. One ripped off his watch. One grabbed his wallet. Myron threw another punch. It hit ribs. Another grunt and another man fell.

Somebody turned on a flashlight and shone it into his eyes. It looked like a train heading toward him.

“Okay,” a voice said, “back off him.”

The hands slid off like wet snakes. Myron tried to sit up.

“Before you get any cute ideas,” the voice behind the flashlight said, “take a look at this.”

The voice put a gun in front of the flashlight.

Another voice said, “Sixty bucks? That’s fuckin’ all? Shit.”

Myron felt the wallet hit him in the chest.

“Put your hands behind your back.”

He did as the voice asked. Someone grabbed the forearms, pulling them closer together, tearing at the shoulder tendons. A pair of handcuffs were snapped on his wrists.

“Leave us,” the voice said. Myron heard the rustling movements. The air cleared. Myron heard a door open, but the flashlight in his eyes prevented him from seeing anything. Silence followed. After some time passed, the voice said, “Sorry to do this to you, Myron. They’ll let you go in a few hours.”

“How long you going to keep running, Cole?”

Cole Whiteman chuckled. “Been running a long time,” he said. “I’m used to it.”

“I’m not here to stop you.”

“Imagine my relief,” he said. “So how did you figure out who I was?”

“It’s not important,” Myron said.

“It is to me.”

“I don’t have any interest in bringing you down,” Myron said. “I just want some information.”

There was a pause. Myron blinked into the light. “How did you get involved in all this?” Cole asked.

“Greg Downing vanished. I was hired to find him.”



Cole Whiteman laughed deep and hearty. The sound bounced around like balls of Silly Putty, the volume reaching a frightening crescendo before mercifully fading away.

“What’s so funny?” Myron asked.

“Inside joke.” Cole stood, the flashlight rising with him. “Look, I have to go. I’m sorry.”

More silence. Cole flicked off the flashlight, plunging Myron back into total blackness. He heard footsteps receding.

“Don’t you want to know who killed Liz Gorman?” Myron called out.

The footsteps continued unimpeded. Myron heard a switch and a dim lightbulb came on. Maybe forty watts. It didn’t come close to fully illuminating the place, but it was a hell of an improvement. Myron blinked away black spots left over from the flashlight assault and examined his surroundings. The room was jammed with marble statues, lined and piled up without reason or logic, some tilted over. It wasn’t a tomb, after all. It was some bizarre, church-art storage room.

Cole Whiteman came back over to him. He sat cross-legged directly in front of Myron. The white stubble was still there—thick in some spots, completely missing in others. His hair jutted up and out in every direction. He lowered the gun to his side.

“I want to know how Liz died,” he said softly.

“She was bludgeoned with a baseball bat,” Myron said.

Cole’s eyes closed. “Who did it?”

“That’s what I’m trying to find out. Right now, Greg Downing is the main suspect.”

Cole Whiteman shook his head. “He wasn’t there long enough.”

Myron felt a knot in his stomach. He tried to lick his lips but his mouth was too dry. “You were there?”

“Across the street behind a garbage can. Like Oscar the fucking Grouch.” His lips smiled, but there was nothing behind it. “You want no one to notice you? Pretend you’re homeless.” He stood up in one fluid motion, like some kind of yoga master. “A baseball bat,” he said. He pinched the bridge of his nose, turned away, and lowered his chin to his chest. Myron could hear small sobs.

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