Darkest Fear Page 50

George Garston agreed to meet Myron at his penthouse at Fifth Avenue and Seventy-eighth Street, overlooking Central Park. A dark-haired woman answered the door. She introduced herself as Sandra and led him silently down the corridor. Myron looked out a window. He could see the Gothic outline of the Dakota all the way across the park. He remembered reading somewhere how Woody and Mia would wave towels from their respective apartments on either side of Central Park. Happier days, no doubt.

“I don’t understand what you have to do with my daughter,” George Garston said to him. Garston wore a collared blue shirt nicely offset by a shock of white neck-to-chest hairs sprouting out like a troll doll’s. His bald head was an almost perfect sphere jammed between two boulder-excuses for shoulders. He had the proud, burly build of a successful immigrant, but you could see that he’d taken a hit. There was a slump there now, the stoop of the eternally grieving. Myron had seen it before. Grief like his breaks your back. You go on, but you always stoop. You smile, but it never really reaches the eyes.

“Probably nothing,” Myron said. “I’m trying to find someone. He may be connected to your daughter’s murder. I don’t know.”

The study was too-dark cherry-wood with drawn curtains and one lamp giving off a faint yellow glow. George Garston turned to the side, staring at the rich paisley wallpaper, showing Myron his profile. “We’ve worked together once,” he said. “Not us personally. Our companies. Did you know that?”

“Yes,” Myron said.

George Garston had made his fortune with a chain of Greek quasi-restaurants, the kind that work best as mall stands in crowded food courts. The chain was called Achilles Meals. For real. Myron had a Greek hockey player who endorsed the chain regionally, in the upper Midwest.

“So a sports agent is interested in my daughter’s murder,” Garston said.

“It’s a long story.”

“The police aren’t talking. But they think it’s her boyfriend. This reporter. Do you agree?”

“I don’t know. What do you think?”

He made a scoffing noise. Myron could barely see his face anymore. “What do I think?” he said. “You sound like one of those grief counselors.”

“Didn’t mean to.”

“Spewing all that sensitivity garbage. They’re just trying to distract you from reality. They say they want you to face it. But really, it’s the opposite. They want you to dig so far into yourself you won’t be able to see how terrible your life is now.” He grunted and shifted in his chair. “I don’t have an opinion on Stan Gibbs. I never met him.”

“Did you know he and your daughter were dating?”

In the dark, Myron saw the big head silently go back and forth. “She told me she had a boyfriend,” he said. “She didn’t tell me his name. Or that he was married.”

“You wouldn’t have approved?”

“Of course I wouldn’t have approved,” he said, trying to sound snappish, but he was beyond petty indignation. “Would you approve if it was your daughter?”

“I guess not. So you knew nothing about her relationship with Stan Gibbs?”

“Nothing.”

“I understand that you spoke to her not long before she died.”

“Four days before.”

“Can you tell me about the conversation?”

“Melina had been drinking,” he said in that pure monotone you get when the words have been ricocheting around your brain too long. “A lot. She drank too much, my daughter. Got that from her papa—who got it from his papa. The Garston family legacy.” He made a chuckling sound that sounded far closer to a sob than anything in the neighborhood of a laugh.

“Melina talked to you about her testimony?”

“Yes.”

“Could you tell me what she said exactly?”

“ ‘I made a mistake, Papa.’ That’s what she said. She said that she lied.”

“What did you say?”

“I didn’t even know what she was talking about. It’s as I told you before—I didn’t know about this boyfriend.”

“Did you ask her to explain?”

“Yes.”

“And?”

“And she didn’t. She said to forget about it. She said she’d take care of it. Then she told me she loved me and hung up.”

Silence.

“I had two children, Mr. Bolitar. Did you know that?”

Myron shook his head.

“A plane crash killed my Michael three years ago. Now an animal has tortured and killed my girl. My wife, her name was Melina too, passed away fifteen years ago. There is no one. Forty-eight years ago, I thought I came to this country with nothing. I made a lot of money. And now I truly have nothing. You understand?”

“Yes,” Myron said.

“Is that all, then?”

“Your daughter had an apartment on Broadway.”

“Yes.”

“Are her personal belongings still there?”

“Sandra—that’s my daughter-in-law—she’s been packing her things. But it’s all still there. Why?”

“I’d like to go through them, if it’s okay with you.”

“The police already did that.”

“I know.”

“You think you might find something they didn’t?”

“I’m almost positive I won’t.”

“But?”

“But I’m attacking this thing from a different perspective. It gives me a fresh set of eyes.”

George Garston flicked on his desk lamp. The yellow from the bulb painted his face a dark jaundice. Myron could see that his eyes were too dry, brittle like fallen acorns in the sun. “If you find whoever killed my Melina, you will tell me first.”

“No,” Myron said.

“Do you know what he did to her?”

“Yes. And I know what you want to do. But it won’t make you feel any better.”

“You say this like you know it for a fact.”

Myron kept silent.

George Garston flicked off the light and turned away. “Sandra will take you over now.”

“He sits in that study all day,” Sandra Garston told him, pressing the elevator button. “He won’t go out anymore.”

“It’s still new,” Myron said.

She shook her head. Her blue-black hair fell in big, loose curls, like thermal fax paper fresh out of the machine. But despite the hair color, her overall effect was almost Icelandic, the face and build of a world-class speed skater. Her features were sharp and ended rather abruptly. Her skin had the red of raw cold.

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