Fade Away Page 80

She pointed the gun at his chest. “Turn off the tape recorder,” she said. “And the phone.”

Myron reached into his pocket and did as she asked.

Tears and rain mixed together and cascaded down her cheeks. “Why couldn’t you just keep your mouth shut?” she wailed. She pointed to the still body on the wet grass. “You heard what he said: no one else knows. All the blackmailers are dead. I could have destroyed this thing”—she held up the box—“once and for all. I wouldn’t have had to hurt you. It would have finally been over.”

“And what about Liz Gorman?”

Audrey made a scoffing noise. “That woman was nothing more than a conniving blackmailer,” she said. “She couldn’t be trusted. I told Greg that. What was to stop her from making copies and bleeding him dry? I even went to her house that night and pretended I was an ex-girlfriend with an ax to grind. I told her I wanted to buy a copy. She said sure. Don’t you see? Paying her off would do no good. There was only one way to keep her quiet.”

He nodded. “You had to kill her.”

“She was just a low-life criminal, Myron. She’d robbed a bank, for chrissake. Greg and I … we were perfect together. You were right about my career. I had to keep our relationship a secret. But not much longer. I was going to get transferred to another beat. Baseball. The Mets or Yankees. Then we could be open about it. It was going so well, Myron, and then this low-life bitch comes along.…” Her voice drifted off with a hard shake of the head. “I had to think about our future,” she said. “Not just Greg’s. Not just mine. But our baby’s too.”

Myron’s eyes closed in pain. “You’re pregnant,” he said softly.

“Now do you see?” Her wide-eyed enthusiasm was back, though it took on a more twisted dimension now. “She wanted to destroy him. Destroy us. What choice did I have? I’m not a killer but it was either us or her. And I know how it looks—Greg running off and not telling me. But it’s just the way he is. We’ve been together for more than six months. I know he loves me. He just needed time.”

Myron swallowed. “It’s over now, Audrey.”

She shook her head and held the gun with both hands. “I’m sorry, Myron. I don’t want to do it. I’d almost rather die first.”

“It doesn’t matter.” Myron took another step. She moved back. The gun trembled in her hand. “They’re blanks,” he said.

Her eyes squinted in confusion. The man in the ski mask sat up like Bela Lugosi in an old Dracula film. He pulled off the mask and showed his badge. “Police,” Dimonte shouted. Win and Krinsky came over the crest. Audrey’s mouth formed a perfect circle. Win had made the fake blackmailer call; Myron had set his cellular phone’s volume on high to be sure Audrey overheard it. The rest was easy.

Dimonte and Krinsky made the arrest. Myron watched, no longer feeling the rain. After Audrey was put into the back of a cruiser, he and Win walked toward the car.

“Superhero partner?” Myron said.

Win shrugged.

Chapter 39

Esperanza was still in the office when the fax machine rang. She crossed the room and watched the machine begin to spew out paper. The facsimile was addressed to her attention, from the FBI:


Subject: Renters of Safe-Deposit Boxes.

She’d been waiting for this transmission all day.

Esperanza’s theory on the blackmail plot had gone something like this: The Raven Brigade robbed the bank. They hit the safe-deposit boxes. People keep all kinds of things in those. Money, jewelry, important documents. That was what hooked the timing together. Simply put, the Raven Brigade had found something in one of those boxes that was damaging to Greg Downing. Then they hatched their little blackmail scheme.

The names came out in alphabetical order. Esperanza read down the list while the paper was still being transmitted. The first page ended in the Ls. No name was familiar. The second page ended in the Ts. No name was familiar. On the third page, when she reached the Ws, her heart leaped into her throat. Her hand fluttered to her mouth, and for a moment she feared that she might scream.

It took several hours to sort through the mess. Statements had to be taken. Explanations made. Myron told Dimonte practically the whole story. He left out the videotape of Thumper and Emily. Again, it was nobody’s business. He also left out the part about meeting up with Cole Whiteman. Myron somehow felt he owed him. For her part, Audrey would not talk at all, except to ask for a lawyer.

“Do you know where Downing is?” Dimonte asked Myron.

“I think so.”

“But you don’t want to tell me.”

Myron shook his head. “He’s not your business.”

“Ain’t that the truth,” Dimonte agreed. “Go on. Get out of here.”

They were downtown at One Police Plaza. Myron and Win walked out in the city night. Large municipal structures consumed the neighboring area. Modern bureaucracy in its most extreme and intimidating form. Even this late at night, you could visualize lines of people heading out the door.

“It was a good plan,” Win said.

“Audrey is pregnant.”

“I heard.”

“Her baby will be born in jail.”

“Not your doing.”

“She thought it was her only way out,” Myron said.

Win nodded. “She saw a blackmailer who stood in the way of all her dreams. I’m not so sure I would have behaved any differently.”

“You don’t commit murder to stave off life’s inconveniences,” Myron said.

Win didn’t argue, but he didn’t agree either. They kept walking. When they reached the car, Win said, “So where does that leave us?”

“With Clip Arnstein,” Myron said. “He has some explaining to do.”

“You want me to come along?”

“No. I want to talk to him alone.”

Chapter 40

By the time Myron arrived at the arena, the game was over. Cars tapped the exits, making it hard to go the opposite way. Myron managed to weave through. He showed his ID to the guard and drove into the players’ lot.

He ran to Clip’s office. Someone called his name. He ignored it. When he reached the outer office door, he tried the knob. It was locked. He was tempted to break it down.

“Yo, Myron.”

It was one of the towel boys. Myron forgot the kid’s name. “What’s up?” he said.

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