Darkest Fear Page 28

“I buy sometimes.”

“Do you even own a wallet?”

“Hey, I’m not the one asking for favors,” Bruce said. “Four o’clock. The Rusty Umbrella.”

15

The Lex Building’s wrought-iron gates lined a Fifth Avenue façade with vegetation so dense you wouldn’t see light through it if a supernova burst on the other side. The famed edifice was a converted Manhattan mansion with a European courtyard and a regal art deco exterior and enough security to handle a Tyson boxing match. The building had wonderful old lines and detailed Venetian touches, except that for the sake of privacy, the windows had been converted into the smoky-limo variety. It made for a distracting and unnatural mix.

Four blue-blazered, gray-slacked guards stood at the entrance—real guards, Myron noted, with cop eyes and KGB facial tics, not the rent-a-uniforms you saw at department stores or airports. The four of them stood silently, eyeing Myron like he was wearing a tube top in the Vatican.

One of the guards stepped forward. “May I see some ID please?”

Myron took out his wallet and showed him a credit card and driver’s license.

“There’s no photo on the driver’s license,” the guard said.

“New Jersey doesn’t require them.”

“I need a photo ID.”

“I have my picture on my health club membership card.”

Cop-patient sigh. “That won’t do, sir. Do you have a passport?”

“In midtown Manhattan?”

“Yes, sir. For the purposes of ID.”

“No,” Myron said. “Besides, it’s a terrible picture. Doesn’t fully capture the radiant blue in my eyes.” Myron batted them for emphasis.

“Wait here, sir.”

He waited. The other three guards frowned, crossed their arms, studied him as though he might start drinking from a toilet. Myron heard a whirring noise and looked up. A security camera was on him now, focusing in. Myron waved, smiled into the lens, performed a few flexes he had picked up from watching he-man events on ESPN 2. He ended with a pretty dramatic back lat spread and waved to the appreciative crowd. The blue-blazers looked unimpressed.

“All natural,” Myron said. “I’ve never taken steroids.”

No replies.

The first guard came back. “Follow me, please.”

Stepping into the courtyard was like stepping into C. S. Lewis’s wardrobe, another world, the other side of the shrubbery, so to speak. Here in the middle of Manhattan, the street noises were suddenly very far away, muted. The garden was lush, the tile walkways forming a pattern not unlike an Oriental carpet. There was a sprouting fountain in the middle with a statue of a horse rearing back its head.

A new set of blue-blazers greeted him by the ornate front door. This place, Myron thought, must rack up a hell of a dry-cleaning bill. They made him empty his pockets, confiscated his cell phone, frisked him by hand, ran a metal wand over his person so thoroughly he almost asked for a condom, walked him through a metal detector twice, again frisked him with a little too much gusto.

“If you touch my wee-wee one more time,” Myron said, “I’m telling my mommy.”

More no replies. Maybe the Lexes demanded not only confidentiality but a discriminating sense of humor.

“Follow me, sir,” the talking blue-blazer said.

The stillness of the place—a building in the middle of Manhattan, for chrissake—was unnerving, the only sound now the steady echo of their footsteps against the cool marble. It was like walking through an old museum at night, the whole experience like something out of From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. The guards formed a poor man’s presidential motorcade—the talking blue-blazer and a buddy three paces in front of him, two other blue-blazers three paces back. Just for fun, Myron would slow down or speed up and watch the guards do likewise. Like a really bad line dance, which was something of a redundancy. At one point he almost did a moonwalk, à la Michael Jackson, but these guys were already viewing him as a potential pedophile.

The mahogany staircase was wide and smelled a bit like lemon Pledge. There were enormous tapestries on the wall, the kind with swords and horses and hedonistic feasts of suckling pig. There were two more blue-blazers on the second floor. Now it was their turn to inspect Myron as though they’d never seen a man before. Myron twirled for their benefit. They too seemed unimpressed.

“You should have seen me flex before,” Myron said.

The double doors opened and Myron entered a room slightly larger than a sports arena. Two guards followed him and took up positions in the back corners. There was a big man sitting to the right in a wing chair. At least he looked big in the chair. Or maybe the chair was tiny. The man was probably in his mid-forties. His head and neck formed a near-perfect trapezoid, the top buzzed into a military crew cut. He had a flat nose and ham-hock hands and knockwurst fingers. Ex-boxer or ex-marine or probably both. A man of ninety-degree angles and granite blocks.

Granite Man gave Myron more hard eyes, though his were more relaxed, as though Myron amused him in the way a little kitty nipping at his pant leg might. He didn’t stand, choosing instead to stare at Myron and crack his knuckles one at a time.

Myron looked at Granite Man. Granite Man cracked another knuckle.

“Shiver,” Myron said.

No one asked him to take a seat. Hell, no one spoke. Myron stood there and waited with the three sets of eyes weighing on him.

“Okay,” Myron said. “I’m intimidated. Can we get past this, please?”

Granite Man nodded at the two blazers. They both left. Almost simultaneously, a door on the other side of the room opened and two women appeared. They were pretty far away, but Myron guessed that the first one was Susan Lex. Her hair was done up in an impossibly neat, semi-shellacked bun, and her lips were pursed as if she’d just swallowed a live beetle. The other woman—she looked no more than eighteen or nineteen—had to be her daughter, a carbon copy with the same pursed lips and twenty-five years less wear and tear, not to mention better hair.

Myron started to cross the room with his hand extended, but Susan Lex held up her palm in a stop gesture. Granite Man sat forward, nearly leaning into Myron’s path. He gave Myron a small shake of the head, which was no easy task when you have no neck. Myron stayed where he was.

“I don’t like being threatened,” Susan Lex called from across the room.

“I apologize for that. But I had to see you.”

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