Darkest Fear Page 2

Myron nodded and they rose. Before they reached the door, his cell phone rang. Myron snatched it up with a speed that would have made Wyatt Earp step back. He put the phone to his ear and cleared his throat.

“MB SportsReps,” he said, silky-smooth, professional-like. “This is Myron Bolitar speaking.”

“Nice phone voice,” Esperanza said. “You sound like Billy Dee ordering two Colt 45s.”

Esperanza Diaz was his longtime assistant and now sports-agent partner at MB SportsReps (M for Myron, the B for Bolitar—for those keeping score).

“I was hoping you were Lamar,” he said.

“He hasn’t called yet?”

“Nope.”

He could almost see Esperanza frown. “We’re in deep doo-doo here,” she said.

“We’re not in deep doo-doo. We’re just sucking a little wind, that’s all.”

“Sucking a little wind,” Esperanza repeated. “Like Pavarotti running the Boston Marathon.”

“Good one,” Myron said.

“Thanks.”

Lamar Richardson was a power-hitting Golden Glove shortstop who’d just become a free agent—“free agent” being a phrase agents whisper in the same way a mufti might whisper “Praise Allah.” Lamar was shopping for new representation and had whittled his final list down to three agencies: two supersized conglomerates with enough office space to house a Price Club and the aforementioned pimple-on-the-buttocks but oh-so-personal MB SportsReps. Go, pimple-butt!

Myron watched his mother standing by the door. He switched ears and said, “Anything else?”

“You’ll never guess who called,” Esperanza said.

“Elle and Claudia demanding another ménage à trois?”

“Oooo, close.”

She would never just tell him. With his friends, everything was a TV game show. “How about a hint?” he said.

“One of your ex-lovers.”

He felt a jolt. “Jessica.”

Esperanza made a buzzing noise. “Sorry, wrong bitch.”

Myron was puzzled. He’d only had two long-term relationships in his life: Jessica on and off for the past thirteen years (now very off). And before that, well, you’d have to go back to …

“Emily Downing?”

Esperanza made a ding-ding noise.

A sudden image pierced his heart like a straight-blade. He saw Emily sitting on that threadbare couch in the frat basement, smiling that smile at him, her legs bent and tucked under her, wearing his high school varsity jacket that was several sizes too big, her gesturing hands slipping down and disappearing into the sleeves.

His mouth went dry. “What did she want?”

“Don’t know. But she said that she simply had to talk to you. She’s very breathy, you know. Like everything she says is a double entendre.”

With Emily, everything was.

“She good in the sack?” Esperanza asked.

Being an overly attractive bisexual, Esperanza viewed everyone as a potential sex partner. Myron wondered what that must be like, to have and thus weigh so many options, and then he decided to leave that road untraveled. Wise man.

“What did Emily say exactly?” Myron said.

“Nothing specific. She just spewed out a colorful assortment of breathy teasers: urgent, life-and-death, grave matters, etceteras, etceteras.”

“I don’t want to talk to her.”

“I didn’t think so. If she calls back, you want me to give her the runaround?”

“Please.”

“Más tarde then.”

He hung up as a second image whacked him like a surprise wave at the beach. Senior year at Duke. Emily so composed as she dumped the varsity jacket onto his bed and walked out. Not long after that, she married the man who’d ruin Myron’s life.

Deep breaths, he told himself. In and out. That’s it.

“Everything okay?” Mom asked.

“Fine.”

Mom shook her head again, disappointed.

“I’m not lying,” he said.

“Fine, right, sure, you always breathe like an obscene phone call. Listen, if you don’t want to tell your mother—”

“I don’t want to tell my mother.”

“Who raised you and …”

Myron tuned her out, as was his custom. She was digressing again, taking on a past life or something. It was something she did a lot. One minute she was thoroughly modern, an early feminist who marched alongside Gloria Steinem and became proof that—to quote her old T-shirt—A Woman’s Place Is in the House … and Senate. But at the sight of her son, her progressive attire slid to the floor and revealed the babushka-clad yenta beneath the burned bra. It made for an interesting childhood.

They headed out the front door. Myron kept his eyes on the For Sale sign as though it might suddenly brandish a gun. His mind flashed onto something he had never actually seen—the sunny day when Mom and Dad had arrived here for the first time, hand in hand, Mom’s belly swelling with child, both of them scared and exhilarated realizing that this cookie-cut three-bedroom split-level would be their life vessel, their SS American Dream. Now, like it or not, that journey was coming to an end. Forget that “close one door, open another” crap. That For Sale sign marked the end—the end of youth, of middle age, of a family, the universe of two people who’d started here and fought here and raised kids here and worked and carpooled and lived their lives here.

They walked up the street. Leaves were piled along the curb, the surest sign of suburban autumn, while leaf blowers shattered the still air like helicopters over Saigon. Myron took the inside track so his path would skim the piles’ edges. The dead leaves crackled under his sneakers and he liked that. He wasn’t sure why.

“Your father spoke to you,” Mom said, half-question. “About what happened to him.”

Myron felt his stomach tense up. He veered deeper into the leaves, lifting his legs high and crunching louder. “Yes.”

“What did he say exactly?” Mom asked.

“That he’d had chest pains while I was in the Caribbean.”

The Kaufman house had always been yellow, but the new family had painted it white. It looked wrong with the new color, out of place. Some homes had gone the aluminum-siding route, while others had built on additions, bumping out the kitchens and master bedrooms. The young family who’d moved into the Miller home had gotten rid of the Millers’ trademark overflowing flower boxes. The new owners of the Davis place had ripped out those wonderful shrubs Bob Davis had worked on every weekend. It all reminded Myron of an invading army ripping down the flags of the conquered.

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