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Myron’s face remained neutral. Mr. Bluff had just been outsmarted by the new manager of the Court Manor Inn. “That’s right,” he said, changing tactics on the fly. “I already know he was here. It was just an opening question. Like when the police ask you to state your name even though they already know it. Just to get the ball rolling.” Mr. Improvision Takes Over for Mr. Bluff.

Stuart Lipwitz took out a piece of paper and began to scribble. “This is the name and telephone number of the Court Manor Inn’s attorney. He will be able to help you with any problems you may have.”

“But what about that handling it personally stuff? What about the satisfaction guarantee?”

“Sir.” He leaned forward, maintaining eye contact. Not a hint of impatience had crept into his voice or face. “May I be bold?”

“Go for it.”

“I don’t believe a word you’re saying.”

“Thanks for the boldness,” Myron said.

“No, thank you, sir. And do come again.”

“Another prostitution credo.”

“Pardon me?”

“Nothing,” Myron said. “May I too be bold?”


“I may punch you in the face very hard if you don’t tell me if you’ve seen this kid.” Mr. Improvisation Loses His Cool.

The door swung open hard. A couple entwined about one another stumbled in. The woman was openly rubbing the man’s crotch. “We need a room pronto,” the man said.

Myron turned to them and said, “Do you have your frequent visitor card?”


Still the smile from Stuart Lipwitz. “Good-bye, sir. And have a nice day.” Then he rejuvenated the smile and moved toward the writhing mound. “Welcome to the Court Manor Inn. My name is Stuart Lipwitz. I’m the new manager.”

Myron headed out to his car. He took a deep breath in the parking lot and looked back behind him. The whole visit already had an unreal feeling, like one of those descriptions of alien abductions sans the anal probe. He got in the car and dialed Win’s cellular. He just wanted to leave him a message on the machine. But to Myron’s surprise, Win answered.

“Articulate,” he drolled.

Myron was momentarily taken aback. “It’s me,” he said.

Silence. Win hated the obvious. “It’s me,” was both questionable grammar (at best) and a complete waste. Win would know who it was by the voice. If he didn’t, hearing “It’s me” would undeniably not help.

“I thought you didn’t answer the phone on the course,” Myron said.

“I’m driving home to change,” Win said. “Then I’m dining at Merion.” Mainliners never ate; they dined. “Care to join me?”

“Sounds good,” Myron said.

“Wait a second.”


“Are you properly attired?”

“I don’t clash,” Myron said. “Will they still let me in?”

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“My, my, that was very funny, Myron. I must write that one down. As soon as I stop laughing, I plan on locating a pen. However, I am so filled with mirth that I may wrap my precious Jag around an upcoming telephone pole. Alas, at least I will die with jocularity in my heart.”


“We have a case,” Myron said.

Silence. Win made this so easy.

“I’ll tell you about it at dinner.”

“Until then,” Win said, “it’ll be all I can do to douse my mounting excitement and anticipation with a snifter of cognac.”

Click. Gotta love that Win.

Myron hadn’t driven a mile when the cellular phone rang. Myron switched it on.

It was Bucky. “The kidnapper called again.”


“What did he say?” Myron asked.

“They want money,” Bucky said.

“How much?”

“I don’t know.”

Myron was confused. “What do you mean, you don’t know? Didn’t they say?”

“I don’t think so,” the old man said.

There was noise in the background. “Where are you?” Myron asked.

“I’m at Merion. Look, Jack answered the phone. He’s still in shock.”

“Jack answered?”


Doubly confused. “The kidnapper called Jack at Merion?”

“Yes. Please, Myron, can you get back over here? It’ll be easier to explain.”

“On my way.”

He drove from the seedy motel to a highway and then into green. Lots of green. The Philadelphia suburbs were lush lawns and high bushes and shady trees. Amazing how close it was—at least in a geographic sense—to the meaner streets of Philly. Like most cities, there was tremendous segregation in Philadelphia. Myron remembered driving with Win to Veterans Stadium for an Eagles game a couple of years back. They’d gone through an Italian block, a Polish block, an African American block; it was as if some powerful, invisible force field—again, like on Star Trek—isolated each ethnicity. The City of Brotherly Love could almost be called Little Yugoslavia.

Myron turned down Ardmore Avenue. Merion was about a mile away. His thoughts turned to Win. How, he wondered, would his old friend react to the maternal connection in this case?

Probably not well.

In all the years they had been friends, Myron had heard Win mention his mother on only one occasion.

It had been during their junior year at Duke. They were college roommates, just back from a wild frat party. The beer had flowed. Myron was not what you’d call a good drinker. Two drinks and he’d usually end up trying to French-kiss a toaster. He blamed this on his ancestry—his people had never handled spirits well.

Win, on the other hand, seemed to have been weaned on schnapps. Liquor never really affected him much. But at this particular party, the grain alcohol–laced punch made even his steps wobble a bit. It took Win three tries to unlock their dorm room door.

Myron quickly collapsed on his bed. The ceiling spun counterclockwise at a seemingly death-defying speed. He closed his eyes. His hands gripped the bed and held on in terror. His face had no color. Nausea clamped down painfully on his stomach. Myron wondered when he would vomit and prayed it would be soon.

Ah, the glamour of college drinking.

For a while neither of them said anything. Myron wondered if Win had fallen asleep. Or maybe Win was gone. Vanished into the night. Maybe he hadn’t held on to his spinning bed tightly enough and the centrifugal force had hurled him out the window and into the great beyond.

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