Darkest Fear Page 67

She smiled. “Like legs in a nunnery.”

“You make that one up?”


“Good thing you carry a gun,” Myron said. “So are you going to get a big promotion?”

She rose. “I think I get to be a super-secret-special agent now.”

Myron smiled. They shook hands. Kimberly left then. Myron sat alone for a while. He rubbed his eyes and thought about what she’d said and what she hadn’t said and realized that something was still very wrong.

Lamar Richardson, shortstop extraordinaire, showed up on time and by himself. Positively shocking. The meeting went well. Myron gave his standard spiel, but the standard spiel was pretty good. Damn good, actually. All businesspeople need a spiel. Spiel is good. Esperanza spoke up too. She had started developing her own spiel. Well honed. The perfect complement to Myron’s. Quite the partnership, this was becoming.

Win stopped by briefly as planned. If recruitment was a baseball game, Win was the big closer. People knew his name. They checked out his reputation—er, his business reputation, that is. When prospective clients learned that Windsor Horne Lockwood III himself would handle their finances, that Win and Myron further insisted that clients meet with Win at least five times a year, they started smiling. Score one for the small agency.

Lamar Richardson played it close to the vest. He nodded a lot. He asked questions but not too many. Two hours after arriving, he shook their hands and said he’d be in touch. Myron and Esperanza walked him to the elevator and bade him good-bye.

Esperanza turned to Myron. “Well?”

“Got him.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“I’m all-seeing,” Myron said. “All-knowing.”

They moved back into Myron’s office and sat down. “If Lamar chooses us over IMG and TruPro”—she stopped, smiled—“we’re baaaaack.”

“Pretty much.”

“And that means Big Cyndi will come back.”

“That’s supposed to be a good thing, right?”

“You’re starting to love her, you know.”

“Yeah, don’t rub it in.”

Esperanza studied his face. She did that a lot. Myron didn’t much believe in reading faces. Esperanza did. Especially his. “What happened in that law office?” she asked. “With Chase Layton?”

“I boxed his ears once and punched him seven times.”

Her eyes stayed on his face.

“You’re supposed to say, ‘But you saved Jeremy’s life,’ ” Myron added.

“No, that’s Win’s line.” She adjusted herself and faced him full. She wore an aquamarine business suit, cut low with no blouse, and it was a wonder Lamar had been able to concentrate on anything. Myron was used to her, but the effect was still there, still dazzling. He just saw the dazzle from a different angle.

“Speaking of Jeremy,” she said.


“You still blocking?”

Myron thought about it, remembered the embrace in that cabin, stopped. “More than ever,” he said.

“So what now?”

“The blood test came back. I’m the father.”

Something popped onto her face—regret maybe—but it didn’t stay long. “You should tell him the truth.”

“Right now I just want to save his life.”

She kept studying the face. “Maybe soon,” she said.

“Maybe soon what?”

“You’ll stop blocking,” Esperanza said.

“Yeah, maybe.”

“We’ll chat then. In the meantime …”

“Don’t be stupid,” he finished for her.

The health club was located in a chi-chi hotel in mid-town. The walls were fully mirrored. The ceiling and the trim and the front desk were whole-milk white. Same with the clothes worn by the personal trainers. The weights and exercise machines were sleek and chrome and so beautiful you didn’t want to touch them. Everything about the place gleamed; you were almost tempted to work out in sunglasses.

Myron found him on a bench press, struggling without a spotter. Myron waited, watching him wage war on gravity and the barbell. Chase Layton’s face was pure red, his teeth gritted, veins in his forehead doing their pop-up video. It took some time, but the attorney achieved victory. He dropped the weight onto the stand. His arms fell to his sides like he’d missed a brain synapse.

“You shouldn’t hold your breath,” Myron said.

Chase looked over at him. He didn’t seem surprised or upset. He sat up, breathing heavily. He wiped his face with a towel.

“I won’t take up much of your time,” Myron said.

Chase put the towel down and looked at him.

“I just wanted to say that if you want to press charges, Win and I won’t get in your way.”

Chase did not reply.

“And I’m very sorry for what I did,” Myron said.

“I watched the news,” Chase said. “You did it to save that boy’s life.”

“Doesn’t excuse it.”

“Maybe not.” He stood and added a plate to both sides of the bar. “Frankly, Mr. Bolitar, I’m not sure what to think.”

“If you want to press charges—”

“I don’t.”

Myron was not sure what to say, so he settled for “Thank you.”

Chase Layton nodded and sat back on the bench. Then he looked at Myron. “Do you want to know what the worst part of it is?”

No, Myron thought. “If you want to tell me.”

“The shame,” Chase said.

Myron started to open his mouth, but Chase waved him quiet.

“It’s not the beating or the pain. It’s the feeling of total helplessness. We were primitive. We were man to man. And there was nothing I could do but take it. You made me feel like”—he looked up, found the words, looked straight at Myron—“like I wasn’t a real man.”

The words made Myron cringe.

“I went to these great schools and joined all the right clubs and made a fortune in my chosen profession. I fathered three kids and raised them and loved them the best I could. Then one day you punch me—and I realize that I’m not a real man.”

“You’re wrong,” Myron said.

“You’re going to say that violence is no measure of a man. On some level you’re right. But on some level, the base level that makes us men, we both know you’re wrong. Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about. It’d just be a further insult.”

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