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“Yes.”

“What did he say?”

“We kind of got interrupted.” Myron walked past the children frolicking in the fountain in Heckscher Playground. There might be happier kids somewhere else on this sunny day, but he doubted it. “I have to ask you something.”

“I already told you. It’s his baby.”

“Not that. Last night, at that club, I could have sworn I saw Kitty.”

Silence.

Myron stopped walking. “Suzze?”

“I’m here.”

“When was the last time you saw Kitty?” Myron asked.

“How long ago did she run away with your brother?”

“Sixteen years ago.”

“Then the answer is sixteen years.”

“So I was just imagining seeing her?”

“I didn’t say that. In fact, I bet it was her.”

“Do you want to explain?”

“Are you near a computer?” Suzze asked.

“No. I’m walking to the office like a dumb animal. I should be there in about five minutes.”

“Forget that. Can you grab a cab and swing by the academy? I want to show you something anyway.”

“When?”

“I’m just about to start a lesson. An hour?”

“Okay.”

“Myron?”

“What?”

“How did Lex look?”

“He looked fine.”

“I just got a bad feeling. I think I’m going to mess up.”

“You won’t.”

“It’s what I do, Myron.”

“Not this time. Your agent won’t let you.”

“Won’t let you,” she repeated, and he could almost see her shaking her head. “If anyone other than you said that, I would think it was the lamest thing I ever heard. But coming from you . . . no, sorry, it’s still really lame.”

“I’ll see you in an hour.”

Myron picked up his pace and headed into the Lock-Horne Building—yes, Win’s full name was Windsor Horne Lockwood, and as they used to say in school, you do the math—and took the elevator to the twelfth floor. The doors opened right into the MB Reps reception area and sometimes, when children on the elevator pressed the wrong button and the door opened, they screamed at what they saw.

Big Cyndi. Receptionist extraordinaire at MB Reps.

“Good morning, Mr. Bolitar!” she cried out in the high-pitched squeal of a little girl seeing her Teen Beat idol.

Big Cyndi was six-five and had recently completed a four-day juice-cleansing “evacuation” diet so that she now tipped the scales at three-ten. Her hands were the size of throw pillows. Her head resembled a cinder block.

“Hey, Big Cyndi.”

She insisted that he call her that, never just Cyndi or, uh, Big, and even though she had known him for years, she liked the formality of calling him Mister Bolitar. Big Cyndi was, he guessed, feeling better today. The diet had darkened Big Cyndi’s usually sunny demeanor. She had growled more than talked. Her makeup, usually a Joseph-and-the-Technicolor-Dreamcoat display, had been a harsh black ’n’ white, landing somewhere between nineties’ goth and seventies’ Kiss. Now, as usual, her makeup looked as though it’d been applied by laying a sixty-four box of Crayolas on her face and turning up the heat lamp.

Big Cyndi leapt to her feet and while Myron was beyond being shocked by what she wore anymore—tube tops, spandex bodysuits—this outfit almost made him step back. Her dress was chiffon, maybe, but it was more like she’d tried to wrap her entire body in party streamers. What appeared to be bands of flimsy purplish pink crepe paper started at the top of her breasts and wound and wound and wound down past her hips and stopped too short on the upper thigh. There were rips in the fabric, pieces dangling off like something Bruce Banner sported after turning into the Hulk. She smiled at him and spun hard on one leg, the earth teetering on its axis as she did. There was a diamond-shaped opening on her lower back near the coccyx bone.

“Do you like it?” she asked.

“I guess.”

Big Cyndi turned back toward him, put her hands on her crepe-paper-clad hips, and pouted. “You ‘guess’?”

“It’s great.”

“I designed it myself.”

“You’re very talented.”

“Do you think Terese will like it?”

Myron opened his mouth, stopped, closed it. Uh-oh.

“Surprise!” Big Cyndi shouted. “I designed these bridesmaid dresses myself. It’s my gift to you both.”

“We don’t even have a date yet.”

“True fashion stands the test of time, Mr. Bolitar. I’m just so glad you like them. I was going to go with a sea-foam color, but I think the fuchsia is warmer. I’m more a warm-tone person. I think Terese is too, don’t you?”

“I do,” Myron said. “She’s all about fuchsia.”

Big Cyndi gave him the slow smile—tiny teeth in a giant mouth—that sent children shrieking. He smiled back. God, he loved this big, crazy woman.

Myron pointed at the door on the left. “Is Esperanza in?”

“Yes, Mr. Bolitar. Should I let her know that you’re here?”

“I got it, thanks.”

“Would you please tell her that I’ll be in for her fitting in five minutes?”

“Will do.”

Myron knocked lightly on the door and entered. Esperanza sat at her desk. She was wearing the fuchsia dress, though on her, with the strategic rips, it looked a bit more like Raquel Welch in One Million Years B.C. Myron stifled a chuckle.

“Make one comment,” Esperanza said, “and die.”

“Moi?” Myron sat. “I do think, however, that sea foam would work better on you. You’re not a warm-tone person.”

“We have a meeting at noon,” she said.

“I’ll be back by then, and hopefully you’ll be changed. Any hits on Lex’s credit cards?”

“Nothing.”

She didn’t look up at him, her eyes down examining some paper on her desk with a tad too much concentration.

“So,” Myron said, aiming for nonchalant. “What time did you get home last night?”

“Don’t worry, Daddy. I didn’t break curfew.”

“That’s not what I meant.”

“Sure it is.”

Myron looked at the swirl of trite-but-true family photographs on her desk. “Do you want to talk about it?”

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