Darkest Fear Page 56

That was why Myron knew that no bluff would work here. Men like Chase Layton believed that anything remotely physical was a bluff. Myron could probably point a gun at him, and he wouldn’t budge. And in that scenario, Chase Layton would be right.

But not this one.

Myron boxed Chase Layton’s ears hard with his palms.

Chase’s eyes widened in a way they probably never had before. Myron put his hand over the lawyer’s mouth, muffling the scream. He cupped the back of the man’s skull and pulled him back, knocking him off his chair and onto the floor.

Chase lay on his back. Myron looked him straight in the eye and saw a tear roll down the man’s cheek. Myron felt ill. He thought about Jeremy and that helped keep his face neutral. Myron said, “Call her.”

He slowly released his hand.

Chase’s breathing was labored. Myron glanced at Win. Win shook his head.

“You,” Chase said, spitting out the word, “are going to jail.”

Myron closed his eyes, made a fist, and punched the lawyer up and under the ribs, toward the liver. The lawyer’s face fell into itself. Myron held the man’s mouth again, but this time there was no scream to smother.

Win eased back in his chair. “For the record, I am the sole witness to this event. I’ll swear under oath that it was self-defense.”

Chase looked lost.

“Call her,” Myron said. He tried to keep the pleading out of his voice. He looked down at Chase Layton. Chase’s shirttail was out of his pants, his tie askew, his comb-over unraveling, and Myron realized that nothing would ever be the same for this man. Chase Layton had been physically assaulted. He would always walk a little more warily now. He would sleep a little less deeply. He would always be a little different inside.

Maybe so too would Myron.

Myron punched him again. Chase made an oof noise. Win stood by the door. Keep your face even, Myron told himself. A man at work. A man who won’t stop no matter what. Myron cocked his fist again.

Five minutes later, Chase Layton called Susan Lex.


“Would have been better,” Win said, “if you let me hurt him.”

Myron kept walking. “It would have been the same,” he said.

Win shrugged. They had an hour to set up. Big Cyndi was now in the conference room with Chase Layton, supposedly going over her new professional-wrestling contract. When she entered the room, all six-six, three hundred pounds of her wearing her Big Chief Mama costume, Chase Layton barely looked up. The pain from the punches, Myron was sure, was ebbing. He had not struck the man in any place that would do lasting damage, except maybe to the obvious.

Esperanza was set up in the lobby. Myron and Win met Zorra two levels down, on the seventh floor. Zorra had staked out the lower floors and decided that this would be the quietest and easiest to contain. The office suites on the northern side were empty, Zorra noted. Anyone entering or leaving had to do so from the west. Zorra was stationed there with one cell phone.

Esperanza had the other one downstairs. Win held the third. They were on a three-way line with one another. Myron and Win were in position. In the last twenty minutes, the elevator had stopped at their floor only twice. Good. Both times the door opened, Myron and Win feigned conversation, just two guys waiting for an elevator heading in the opposite direction. Real undercover commandos.

Myron hoped like hell no one happened upon the scene when it all went down. Zorra would warn them, of course, but once the operation was under way, it couldn’t be stopped. They’d have to come up with some excuse, say it was a drill maybe, but Myron was not sure he could stomach hurting any more innocents today. He closed his eyes. Can’t back down now. Too far gone.

Win smiled at him. “Wondering yet again if the ends justify the means?”

“Not wondering,” Myron said.


“I know they don’t.”

“And yet?”

“I’m not in the mood for introspection right now.”

“But you’re so good at it,” Win said.


“And knowing you as well as I do, you’ll save it for later—for when you have more time. You’ll gnash your teeth over what you just did. You’ll feel ashamed, remorseful, guilty—though you’ll also be oddly proud that you didn’t have moi do your dirty work. You’ll end up making a clear declaration that it will never happen again. And perhaps it won’t—not, at least, until the stakes are this high.”

“So I’m a hypocrite,” Myron said. “Happy?”

“But that is my point,” Win said.


“You’re not a hypocrite. You aim toward lofty heights. The fact that your arrow cannot always reach them does not make you a hypocrite.”

“So in conclusion,” Myron said, “the ends do not justify the means. Except sometimes.”

Win spread his hands. “See? I just saved you hours of soul-searching. Perhaps I should consider penning one of those how-to-manage-your-time manuals.”

Esperanza broke in through the phone. “They’re here,” she said.

Win put the phone to his ear. “How many?”

“Three coming in. Susan Lex. That granite guy Myron keeps talking about. Another bodyguard. Two more staying parked outside.”

“Zorra,” Win said into the phone. “Please keep an eye on the two gentlemen outside.”

Zorra said, “And if they move?”

“Detain them.”

“With pleasure.” Zorra giggled. Win smiled. Welcome to the Psycho Hotline. Only $3.99 per minute. First call is free.

Myron and Win waited now. Two minutes past. Esperanza said, “Middle elevator. All three are inside.”

“Anyone else with them?”

“No … wait. Damn, two businessmen are going in.”

Myron closed his eyes and cursed.

Win looked at him. “Your call.”

Panic squeezed Myron’s chest. Innocent people in the elevator. There was sure to be violence. Witnesses now.


“Hold the phone.” It was Esperanza. “The granite guy blocked their path. Looks like he told them to wait for another elevator.”

“Top-notch security,” Win said. “Good to see we’re not dealing with amateurs.”

“Okay,” Esperanza said. “Just the three of them are inside now.”

The relief in Myron’s face was palpable.

Esperanza said, “Elevator closing … now.”

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