Darkest Fear Page 35

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Myron pulled out. So, too, he noticed, did two men in a black Oldsmobile Ciera. Hmm.

The cell phone rang.

“Have you learned anything?” It was Emily.

“Not really,” Myron said.

“Where are you?”

“Englewood.”

“Do you have any plans for dinner?” Emily asked.

Myron hesitated. “No.”

“I’m a good cook, you know. We dated in college, so I didn’t have much chance to demonstrate my culinary skills.”

“I remember you cooking for me once,” Myron said.

“I did?”

“In my wok.”

Emily chuckled. “That’s right, you had an electric wok in your dorm, right?”

“Yep.”

“I almost forgot about that,” Emily said. “Why did you have one, anyway?”

“To impress chicks.”

“Really?”

“Sure. I thought I’d invite a girl up to my room, slice up some vegetables, add a little soy sauce—”

“To the vegetables?” she asked.

“For starters.”

“So how come you never pulled that one on me?”

“Didn’t have to.”

“You calling me easy, Myron?”

“How exactly does one answer that,” Myron asked, “and maintain possession of both testicles?”

“Come on over,” Emily said. “I’ll make us some dinner. No soy sauce.”

Another hesitation.

“Please don’t make me ask again,” Emily said.

He wanted very much to say no. “Okay.”

“Just take Route 4—”

“I know the way, Emily.”

He hung up then and checked the rearview mirror. The black Oldsmobile Ciera was still following. Better safe than sorry. Myron hit the preprogrammed number on his cell phone. After one ring, Win answered.

“Articulate,” Win said.

“Got a tail, methinks.”

“License plate?”

Myron read it off to him.

“Where should we coordinate?”

“Garden State Plaza mall,” Myron said.

“On my way, fair maiden.”

Myron stayed on Route 4 until he saw a sign for the Garden State Plaza. He took a rather complicated cloverleaf overpass and veered into the mall’s lot. The black Olds followed, dropping back a bit. Stall time. Myron circled a few times before finding a parking space. The Olds kept its distance. He turned off the car and headed for the “Northeast Entrance.”

The Garden State Plaza had all the artificial elements endemic in malls—the mall ear-pop when you enter, the stale mall air, the mall hollow acoustics, as though all sound were traveling through a high-volume distorter—the audial equivalent of a shower door, voices somehow rendered both loud and incomprehensible. Too much with the high ceilings and faux marble, nothing soft to cushion the sound.

He strolled through the nouveau riche section of the Garden State Plaza, past several barren shoe stores, the kind that display maybe three pairs of shoes on the ends of what look like deer antlers. He reached a store called Aveda, which sold wildly overpriced cosmetics and lotions. The Aveda saleswoman, a starving young thang in tourniquet-tight black, informed Myron that they were having a sale on face moisturizers. Myron refrained from crying out “Yippee!” and went on his way. Victoria’s Secret was next, and Myron did that male surreptitious glance at the lingerie window displays. Most of your more sophisticated heterosexual males are well versed in this art, awarding the racily clad supermodels the most casual of once-overs, feigning a lack of interest in the blown-up, blown-clear images of Stephanie and Frederique in Miracle Bras. Myron, of course, did the same thing—and then he thought, why pretend? He stopped short, squared his shoulders, ogled in earnest. Honesty. Shouldn’t a woman respect that in a man too?

He checked his watch. Not yet. More stall. The plan, as it were, was fairly simple. Win drives to the Garden State Plaza. When he arrives, he calls Myron on the cell phone. Myron then goes back to his car. Win looks for the black Olds and follows the followee. Super clever, no?

Myron hit Sharper Image, one of the few places in the world where people use the words shiatsu and ionic and nobody laughs. He tried out a massage chair (setting: Knead) and debated purchasing a $5,500 life-size statue of a Star Wars star-trooper that had been reduced to a mere $3,499. Talk about redefining nouveau riche. Here’s a little tip for you: If you’ve purchased a Sharper Image life-size Star Wars star-trooper, take out your platinum-est charge card, hand it to the nearest cashier, and buy a life.

The cell phone rang. Myron picked it up.

“They’re feds,” Win said.

“Yikes.”

“Yes.”

“No reason to follow them, then.”

“No.”

Myron spotted two men in suits and sunglasses behind him. They were studying the fruit-flavored shampoos in the Garden Botanica store window a little too closely. Two men in suits and sunglasses. Oh, like that happens. “I think they’re following me in here too.”

“If they arrest you with lingerie,” Win said, “tell them it’s for your wife.”

“That what you do?”

“Keep the phone on,” Win said.

Myron did as he asked. An old trick of theirs. Myron kept his cell phone on, thereby freeing Win to listen in. Okay, fine, now what? He kept strolling. Two more men in business suits were window-shopping up ahead. They turned as Myron approached, both staring him down. Some tail. Myron glanced behind him. The first two feds were right there.

The two feds in front of him stepped directly into his path. The other two came up behind him, boxing him in.

Myron stopped, looked at all four feds. “Did you guys check out the facial moisturizer sale at Aveda?”

“Mr. Bolitar?”

“Yes.”

One of them, a short guy with a severe haircut, flashed a badge. “I’m Special Agent Fleischer with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. We’d like a word with you, sir.”

“What about?”

“Would you mind coming with us?”

They had the standard-issue stone expressions; Myron would get nothing out of them. Probably didn’t even know anything themselves. Probably just delivery boys. Myron shrugged and followed them out. Two got into a white Olds Ciera. The other two stayed with Myron. One opened the back door of the black Ciera and head-gestured for Myron to get in. He did so. The interior was very clean. Nice, smooth seats. Myron ran his hand over it.

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