Darkest Fear Page 36

“Corinthian leather?” he asked.

Special Agent Fleischer turned around. “No, sir, that would be the Ford Granada.”

Touché.

No one spoke. No radio played. Myron settled back. He debated calling Emily and postponing their soy-sauce-less encounter, but he didn’t want the feds to hear him. He sat tight and kept his mouth shut. He didn’t do that often. It felt odd and somehow right.

Thirty minutes later, he was in the basement of a modest high-rise in Newark. He sat at a table with his hands on a semi-sticky table. The room had one barred window and cement walls the color and texture of dried oatmeal. The feds excused themselves and left Myron alone. Myron sighed and sat back. He’d figured that this was the old soften-him-up-by-making-him-wait bit, when the door flew open.

The woman was first. She wore a pumpkin-orange blazer, blue jeans, sneakers, and ball-and-chain earrings. The word that came to mind was husky. Not big really. Husky. Everything was husky—even her hair, a sort of canned-corn yellow. The guy riding in on her fumes was geeky thin with a pointy head and a small, greased shock of black hair. He looked like an upside-down pencil. He spoke first.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Bolitar,” Pencil said.

“Good afternoon.”

“I’m Special Agent Rick Peck,” he said. “This is Special Agent Kimberly Green.”

The orange-blazered Green did a caged-lion pace. Myron nodded at her. She nodded back but grudgingly, like her teacher had just told her to apologize for something she didn’t do.

Pencil Peck continued. “Mr. Bolitar, we’d like to ask you a few questions.”

“What about?”

Peck kept his eyes on his notes and spoke like he was reading. “Today you visited one Stan Gibbs at 24 Acre Drive. Is that correct?”

“How do you know I didn’t visit two Stan Gibbs?”

Peck and Green exchanged a glance. Then Peck said, “Please, Mr. Bolitar, we’d appreciate your cooperation. Did you visit Mr. Gibbs?”

“You know I did,” Myron said.

“Fine, thank you.” Peck wrote something down slowly. Then he looked up. “We’d very much like to know the nature of your visit.”

“Why?”

“You are the first visitor Mr. Gibbs has had since moving to his current residence.”

“No, I mean, why do you want to know?”

Green crossed her arms. She and Peck looked at each other again. Peck said, “Mr. Gibbs is part of an ongoing investigation.”

Myron waited. No one said anything. “Well, that pretty much clears it up.”

“That’s all I can say for the moment.”

“Same here.”

“Pardon?”

“If you can’t say any more, I can’t say any more.”

Kimberly Green put her hands on the table, gave a toothy grimace—husky teeth?—and leaned down like she might take a bite out of him. The canned-corn hair smelled like Pert Plus. She eyeballed him—must have read a memo on intimidating glares—and then spoke for the first time. “Here’s how we’re going to play it, asshole. We’re going to ask you questions. You’re going to listen to them and then you’re going to answer them. You got it?”

Myron nodded. “I want to make sure I got this straight,” he said to her. “You’re playing bad cop, right?”

Peck picked up the ball. “Mr. Bolitar, no one is interested in making trouble here. But we’d very much like your cooperation in this matter.”

“Am I under arrest?” Myron asked.

“No.”

“Bye then.”

He started to stand. Kimberly Green gave him a shove mid-rise and he fell back into the chair. “Sit down, asshole.” She looked over at Peck. “Maybe he’s part of it.”

“You think so?”

“Why else would he be so reluctant to answer questions?”

Peck nodded. “Makes sense. An accomplice.”

“We can probably arrest him now,” Green said. “Lock him up for the night, maybe leak it to the press.”

Myron looked up at her. “Gasp,” he said. “Now. I. Am. Really. Scared. Second gasp.”

She narrowed her eyes. “What did you say?”

“Don’t tell me,” Myron said. “Maybe I’m guilty of aiding and abetting. That’s my personal favorite. Does anyone actually get prosecuted for that?”

“You think we’re playing games here?”

“I do. And by the way, how come you’re all called ‘special’ agent? Doesn’t that sound like something someone made up one day? Like a kid’s game to raise self-esteem. ‘We’re promoting you from agent to special agent, Barney,’ and then what, super-special agent?”

Green grabbed his lapels and leaned his chair back. “You’re not funny.”

Myron looked at her hands gripping him. “Are you for real?”

“You want to try me?” she said.

Peck said, “Kim.”

She ignored him and kept her glare on Myron. “This is serious,” she said.

Her tone aimed for angry but came out more like a frightened plea. Two more agents entered. With the four delivery boys, that made eight. This was something big. What, Myron had no idea. The murder of Melina Garston maybe. But that was doubtful. The locals usually handled murders. You don’t call in the feds.

The new guys came at Myron in different ways, but there were only so many routes to travel and Myron knew them all. Threatening, friendly, flattering, insulting, building up, belittling, hard, soft, every sell. They denied him the bathroom, they made excuses to keep him longer, all the while they’re working him and he’s working them and neither one is giving. Sweat started flowing, mostly from them, the stains and stench filling the air, metastasizing into something Myron could swear was genuine fear.

Kimberly Green came in and out and she kept shaking her head at him. Myron wanted to cooperate, but here’s the pertinent cliché: Once the genie is out of the bottle, you can’t put it back in. He didn’t know what they were investigating. He didn’t know if it would benefit Jeremy to talk or hurt him. But once he spoke, once his words were in the public domain, he couldn’t take them back. Any leverage he might later be able to apply would be gone. So, for now, even if he might want to help, he wouldn’t. Not until he learned more. He had the contacts. He could find out quickly enough, make an informed decision.

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