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“It’s okay,” Francine Rennart said.

“I feel awful.”

“No need to.”

“Have you been widowed long?”

She tilted her head. “Why do you ask?”

“Background,” he said.

“Background?”

“Yes. I think it’s crucial to understanding Francine Rennart the artist. I want to explore how being widowed affected you and your art.” Scoop Bolitar shovels it good.

“I’ve only been a widow a short time.”

Myron motioned toward the, uh, studio. “So when you created this work, did your husband’s death have any bearing on the outcome? On the color of the wastebaskets maybe. Or the way you rolled up that rug.”

“No, not really.”

“How did your husband die?”

“Why would you—”

“Again, I think it’s important for digesting the entire artistic statement. Was it an accident, for example? The kind of death that makes you ponder fickle fate. Was it a long illness? Seeing a loved one suffer—”

“He committed suicide.”

Myron feigned aghast. “I’m so sorry,” he said.

Her breathing was funny now, her chest giving off short hitches. As Myron watched her, an awful pang struck him deep in the chest. Slow down, he told himself. Stop focusing solely on Chad Coldren and remember that this woman, too, has suffered. She had been married to this man. She had loved him and lived with him and built a life with him and had a child with him.

And after all that, he had chosen to end his life rather than spend it with her.

Myron swallowed. Fiddling with her pathos like this was, at best, unfair. Belittling her artistic expression because he did not understand it was cruel. Myron did not like himself much right now. For a moment he debated just going away—the odds that any of this had anything to do with the case were so remote—but then again, he couldn’t simply forget a sixteen-year-old boy with a missing finger, either.

“Were you married long?”

“Almost twenty years,” she said softly.

“I don’t mean to intrude, but may I ask you his name?”

“Lloyd,” she said. “Lloyd Rennart.”

Myron narrowed his eyes as though scanning for a memory. “Why does that name ring a bell?”

Francine Rennart shrugged. “He co-owned a tavern in Neptune City. The Rusty Nail.”

“Of course,” Myron said. “Now I remember. He hung out there a lot, right?”

“Yes.”

“My God, I met the man. Lloyd Rennart. Now I remember. He used to teach golf, right? Was in the big time for a while.”

Francine Rennart’s face slid closed like a car window. “How do you know that?”

“The Rusty Nail. And I’m a huge golf fan. A real duffer, but I follow it like some people follow the Bible.” He was flailing, but maybe he was getting somewhere. “Your husband caddied Jack Coldren, right? A long time ago. We talked about it a bit.”

She swallowed hard. “What did he say?”

“Say?”

“About being a caddie.”

“Oh, not much. We mostly talked about some of our favorite golfers. Nicklaus, Trevino, Palmer. Some great courses. Merion mostly.”

“No,” she said.

“Ma’am?”

Her voice was firm. “Lloyd never talked about golf.”

Scoop Bolitar steps in it in a big way.

Francine Rennart skewered him with her eyes. “You can’t be from the insurance company. I didn’t even try to make a claim.” She pondered that for a moment. Then: “Wait a second. You said you’re a sports writer. That’s why you’re here. Jack Coldren is making a comeback, so you want to do a where-are-they-now story.”

Myron shook his head. Shame flushed his face. Enough, he thought. He took a few deep breaths and said, “No.”

“Then who are you?”

“My name is Myron Bolitar. I’m a sports agent.”

She was confused now. “What do you want with me?”

He searched for the words, but they all sounded lame. “I’m not sure. It’s probably nothing, a complete waste of time. You’re right. Jack Coldren is making a comeback. But it’s like … it’s like the past is haunting him. Terrible things are happening to him and his family. And I just thought—”

“Thought what?” she snapped. “That Lloyd came back from the dead to claim vengeance?”

“Did he want vengeance?”

“What happened at Merion,” she said. “It was a long time ago. Before I met him.”

“Was he over it?”

Francine Rennart thought about that for a while. “It took a long time,” she said at last. “Lloyd couldn’t get any golf work after what happened. Jack Coldren was still the fair-haired boy and no one wanted to cross him. Lloyd lost all his friends. He started drinking too much.” She hesitated. “There was an accident.”

Myron stayed still, watching Francine Rennart draw breaths.

“He lost control of his car.” Her voice was robot-like now. “It slammed into another car. In Narberth. Near where he used to live.” She stopped and then looked at him. “His first wife died on impact.”

Myron felt a chill rush through him. “I didn’t know,” he said softly.

“It was a long time ago, Mr. Bolitar. We met not long after that. We fell in love. He stopped drinking. He bought the tavern right away—I know, I know, it sounds weird. An alcoholic owning a bar. But for him, it worked. We bought this house too. I—I thought everything was okay.”

Myron waited a beat. Then he asked, “Did your husband give Jack Coldren the wrong club on purpose?”

The question did not seem to surprise her. She plucked at the buttons on her blouse and took her time before answering. “The truth is, I don’t know. He never talked about this incident. Not even with me. But there was something there. It may have been guilt, I don’t know.” She smoothed her skirt with both hands. “But all of this is irrelevant, Mr. Bolitar. Even if Lloyd did harbor ill feelings toward Jack, he’s dead.”

Myron tried to think of a tactful way of asking, but none came to him. “Did they find his body, Mrs. Rennart?”

His words landed like a heavyweight’s hook. “It—it was a deep crevasse,” Francine Rennart stammered. “There was no way … the police said they couldn’t send anyone down there. It was too dangerous. But Lloyd couldn’t have survived. He wrote a note. He left his clothes there. I still have his passport.…” Her voice faded away.

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