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“Tough luck, cowpoke. Your girlfriend did it. You want to know why Jack and me was fighting? I’ll tell you. I told him he was being an asshole for not calling the police about the kidnapping. He said he and Linda thought it best.” She sneered. “He and Linda, my ass.”

Myron watched her. Something wasn’t meshing again.

“You think it was Linda’s idea not to call the police?”

“Damn straight. She’s the one who grabbed the kid. The whole thing was a big setup.”

“Why would she do that?”

“Ask her.” An awful smile. “Maybe she’ll tell you.”

“I’m asking you.”

She shook her head. “Not that easy, cowpoke. I told you who did it. That’s enough, don’t you think?”

Time to approach from another angle. “How long have you been Jack’s caddie?” he asked.

“A year.”

“What’s your qualifications, if I may ask? Why did Jack choose you?”

She snorted a chuckle. “Don’t matter none. Jack didn’t listen to caddies. Not since ol’ Lloyd Rennart.”

“Did you know Lloyd Rennart?”

“Nope.”

“So why did Jack hire you?”

She did not answer.

“Were you two sleeping together?”

Diane Hoffman gave another cough-laugh. A big one. “Not likely.” More hacking laughter. “Not likely with ol’ Jack.”

Somebody called his name. Myron turned around. It was Victoria Wilson. Her face was still sleepy but she beckoned him with some urgency. Bucky stood next to her. The old man looked like a window draft would send him skittering.

“Better head on down there, cowpoke,” she mocked. “I think your girlfriend is gonna need some help.”

He gave her a last look and turned toward the house. Before he moved three steps, Detective Corbett was on him. “Need a word with you, Mr. Bolitar.”

Myron brushed past him. “In a minute.”

When he reached Victoria Wilson, she made herself very clear: “Do not talk to the cops,” she said. “In fact, go to Win’s and stay put.”

“I’m not crazy about taking orders,” Myron said.

“Sorry if I’m bruising your male ego,” she said in a tone that made it clear she was anything but. “But I know what I’m doing.”

“Have the police found the finger?”

Victoria Wilson crossed her arms. “Yes.”

“And?”

“And nothing.”

Myron looked at Bucky. Bucky looked away. He turned his attention back to Victoria Wilson. “They didn’t ask you about it?”

“They asked. We refused to answer.”

“But the finger could exonerate her.”

Victoria Wilson sighed and turned away. “Go home, Myron. I’ll call you if anything new turns up.”

33

It was time to face Win.

Myron rehearsed several possible approaches in the car. None felt right, but that really did not matter much. Win was his friend. When the time came, Myron would deliver the message and Win would adhere to it or not.

The trickier question was, of course, should the message be delivered at all? Myron knew that repression was unhealthy and all that—but did anybody really want to risk unbottling Win’s suppressed rage?

The cell phone rang. Myron picked it up. It was Tad Crispin.

“I need your help,” Tad said.

“What’s up?”

“The media keep hounding me for a comment. I’m not sure what to say.”

“Nothing,” Myron told him. “Say nothing.”

“Yeah, okay, but it’s not that easy. Learner Shelton—he’s the Commissioner of the USGA—called me twice. He wants to have a big trophy ceremony tomorrow. Name me U.S. Open champion. I’m not sure what to do.”

Smart kid, Myron thought. He knows that if this is handled poorly it could seriously wound him. “Tad?”

“Yes?”

“Are you hiring me?” Business was still business. Agenting was not charity work.

“Yeah, Myron, you’re hired.”

“Okay then, listen up. There’ll be details to work out first. Percentages, that kinda thing. Most of it is fairly standard.” Kidnapping, limb-severing, murder—nothing stopped the almighty agent from trying to turn a buck. “In the meantime, say nothing. I’ll have a car come by to pick you up in a couple of hours. The driver will call up to your room before he gets there. Go straight to the car and say nothing. No matter what the press yells at you, keep silent. Do not smile or wave. Look grim. A man has just been murdered. The driver will bring you to Win’s estate. We’ll discuss strategy then.”

“Thanks, Myron.”

“No, Tad, thank you.”

Profiting from a murder. Myron had never felt so much like a real agent in all his life.

The media had set up camp outside Win’s estate.

“I’ve hired extra guards for the evening,” Win explained, empty brandy snifter in hand. “If anybody approaches the gate, they’ve been instructed to shoot to kill.”

“I appreciate that.”

Win gave a quick head bow. He poured some Grand Marnier into the snifter. Myron grabbed a Yoo-Hoo from the fridge. The two men sat.

“Jessica called,” Win said.

“Here?”

“Yes.”

“Why didn’t she call me on the cellular?”

“She wanted to speak with me,” Win said.

“Oh.” Myron shook his Yoo-Hoo, just like the side of the can said. SHAKE! IT’S GREAT! Life is poetry. “What about?”

“She was worried about you,” Win said.

“Why?”

“For one thing, Jessica claimed that you left a cryptic message on the answering machine.”

“Did she tell you what I said?”

“No. Just that your voice sounded strained.”

“I told her that I loved her. That I’d always love her.”

Win took a sip and nodded as though that explained everything.

“What?”

“Nothing,” Win said.

“No, tell me. What?”

Win put down the snifter and steepled his fingers. “Who were you trying to convince?” he asked. “Her or you?”

“What the hell does that mean?”

Bouncing the fingers now instead of steepling. “Nothing.”

“You know how much I love Jessica.”

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