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         Part #11 of Myron Bolitar series by Harlan Coben  
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"Oh, that one's easier," Esperanza said.

  "Do tell."

  "We women love a bad boy. You think, what, rich Tamryn only knows wealthy socialites?"

  Myron thought about that. "You think she's slumming?"

  "I don't know. But it's certainly possible. First, we need to figure out if the boy you rescued is Patrick Moore or not. What's the story with the DNA test?"

  "We got it over to Joe Corless at the lab," Myron said. "He said it might take a few days. Some problem with the collection. He's having trouble finding a hair with a decent root on it. The DNA off the toothbrush might be contaminated. I don't know all the details. In the meantime, we need to get all we can on Tamryn Rogers."

  "I'll do all the traditional sleuthing," Esperanza said. "But as she repeatedly just told us, she's a sixteen-year-old girl."

  "Meaning?"

  "How about we get that Spoon kid on it too? He can figure out the social media angles."

  "Good idea."

  "Mickey wants to meet with me anyway," Esperanza said. "I'll get him the info for Spoon."

  Myron made a face. "Wait, why does Mickey want to meet with you?"

  Esperanza shrugged. "He didn't say; I didn't ask. Now, get back to your apartment and defile your honey."

  "I don't 'defile.'"

  "Then you're not doing it right," Esperanza said with a wink. She gave Myron a kiss on the cheek. "Stay safe, okay?"

  "You too."

  They split up. Myron hopped in a taxi. He texted Terese: On my way. You ready?

  Myron's heart sank when he saw the answer: Uh, no.

  When Myron got back to the apartment, Win was there.

  "Sorry for the cock block," he said.

  Chapter 29

  So," Win began, swirling his snifter of cognac, "let's review, shall we?"

  "Okay."

  "I'll go first," Win said. "Patrick Moore told Fat Gandhi that Rhys is dead."

  Win's living room at the Dakota resembled something you might see on a tour of Versailles. The two old friends sat in their usual spots--spots they hadn't sat in together for more than a year. Win took a sip of the cognac and took in the surroundings. Feeling nostalgic, Myron chugged Yoo-hoo from an ice-cold can.

  "Do you believe him?" Myron asked.

  "Who? Fat Gandhi or Patrick?"

  Myron nodded. "Either. Both. Neither."

  "Precisely."

  Terese had excused herself as soon as Myron returned. She had suggested, now that Win was back, that she and Myron pack and depart to give Win his privacy. Win had replied that he'd had a year of privacy, thank you very much, and that he'd be insulted if they left.

  "Self-interest," Win said. "At the end of the day, it comes down to that always."

  "Meaning?"

  "Meaning I see no motive for Fat Gandhi to lie here. I'm not saying he wouldn't lie, is not a compulsive liar, is not a horrible human being who may not only be selling underage sex but participating in said rape and abuse. But I don't see how this lie works in his self-interest."

  "Maybe he killed Rhys and is covering that."

  Win lifted his free hand and tilted it one way, then the other. "It is certainly a possibility, but I see no motive. It is also a possibility that he stored Rhys somewhere and hopes to use him as a pawn at a later time. But I don't think so. Fat Gandhi was frightened."

  "You can do that to a person."

  Win tried not to smile. "I can, can't I? Oh, and I had an old friend of ours with me."

  "Who?"

  "Zorra."

  Myron's eyes widened. "For real?"

  "No," Win said in a tone so dry it could have caught fire, "I'm making it up."

  "You and Zorra." Myron took another chug. "Heck, I'm scared just thinking about it."

  "I offered Fat Gandhi an opportunity to rid himself of his issues with us by handing over Rhys. I believe that he would have snapped up that chance, if he could."

  They sat in silence for a few moments.

  "We always knew this was a possibility," Myron said.

  "That Rhys was dead?"

  "Yes."

  Win nodded. "Of course."

  "But we still have a long way to go. We don't even know for sure that Patrick is Patrick."

  "We look at the beginning," Win said. "And we look at the end."

  "Yeah, you've said that. You should probably put that in a fortune cookie."

  "Zorra," Win said.

  "What about him?"

  "I sent him to Finland."

  Myron thought about that. "To find the nanny."

  "Au pair," Win corrected.

  "I'm going to skip the eye roll."

  "Her name, if you recall, is Vada Linna."

  "I recall."

  "She doesn't exist anymore."

  "Pardon?"

  "She would be twenty-eight. There is no Vada Linna in Finland--or anywhere else, for that matter--anywhere near that age range."

  Myron thought about that. "She changed her name."

  "God, you're good."

  "With all the press attention during the kidnapping, that's not much of a surprise."

  "Perhaps," Win said. "Except her father doesn't exist anymore either."

  "He could have passed away."

  "No record of it. They both, it seems, vanished."

  Myron considered that. "So what's your theory?"

  "I don't have a good one yet. It's why I put Zorra on it."

  "Sure that's wise?"

  "Why wouldn't it be?"

  "Might be a case of using a blowtorch when all you need is a match."

  Win smiled. "I always use the blowtorch."

  Hard to argue.

  Win sat back and crossed his legs. "Now let's go through the rest of this point by point, shall we?"

  Myron filled him in on everything--the visits to the Moore house, Mickey and Ema's opinion, Ema stealing the toothbrush and the hairs for DNA (Win smiled broadly at that one), the texts, Chick's reaction, Tamryn Rogers, all of it. They discussed, analyzed, drove down various dark roads that all led to dead ends.

  They ended as they began: "Do we tell Brooke what Fat Gandhi said?"

  Win pondered that. "It's your call."

  That surprised Myron. "Mine."

  "Yes."

  "I don't get it. Why?"

  "Simple." Win put down the snifter and steepled his hands. "You're better at this than I am."

  "No, I'm not."

  "Don't feign modesty. You are more objective. Your judgment is sounder. You and I have been doing this a long time--helping those in trouble, finding missing people, rescuing those in need--have we not?"

  "We have."

  "And in every situation, you have been the leader. I'm the support staff. I'm your muscle, if you will. We are partners, a team, but to keep within this quick metaphor, you are the captain of the team. I've made mistakes."

  "So have I."

  Win shook his head. "I didn't have to kill all three of those men that first day. I could have kept one alive. I could have offered them money to back off. The fact is, I'm objective enough to know I cannot be objective. Did you see Brooke's face?"

  Myron nodded.

  "You know," Win said, "that I care about very few people."

  Myron did not reply.

  "You know that when I care, I care with a ferocity that doesn't always make me rational. We have had success in the past with you taking the lead."

  "We've also messed up," Myron said. "We've lost a lot of people."

  "We have," Win agreed, "but we win more than we lose."

  Win waited for Myron to continue.

  "Brooke would want to know," Myron said. "We should tell her."

  "Okay, then."

  "But first," Myron said, "let's confront Patrick with what we know."

  *

  You don't get anywhere on the phone, so Myron and Win took the drive out to the Moore home in New Jersey. There was no answer at the door. Myron took a peek in the window of the garage. No car. Win spotted the FOR SALE sign in the yard.

  "You saw this?" Win asked.

  Myron nodded. "They're all moving to Pennsylvania to be closer to Hunter."

  "Do you have Hunter's address?"

  "I do."

  Myron took out his mobile phone and brought up a map. "According to this, we can make it in an hour and fifteen minutes."

  "Perhaps," Win said, "I should drive."

  Less than an hour later, they reached a dirt road deep in the woods. There was a chain blocking access. A rusted sign read: LAKE CHARMAINE--PRIVATE

  Myron got out of the car. There was a padlock on one end of the chain. Using his heel, Myron kicked down on it. The lock broke. The chain fell to the ground with a heavy clunk.

  "We're trespassing," Myron said.

  "Let's live on the edge, old friend. That's where all the goodies reside."

  As they drove up the dirt road, Lake Charmaine in all its splendor rose before them. The sun glistened off the water. Myron checked the GPS. It instructed them to circle to the other side of the lake. They veered to the left and drove past the kind of log cabin you thought existed only in old movies. A car with an MD license plate was parked in front of it. On the dock, a man about Myron's age cast out his fishing line slowly, gracefully, like poetry in motion. He then handed the rod to a small boy and put his arm around a woman's waist. They stood there, this idyllic family of three, and Myron thought about Terese. The man on the dock turned at the sound of the car. The woman kept her eyes on the little boy with the fishing rod. The man's eyes narrowed as Myron and Win cruised past. Myron waved to show him that they meant him no harm. The man hesitated and then waved back.

  They drove past ruins of what might have once been camp cabins or cabins used on a retreat or something. A construction crew was now building a house on the site.

  "Nancy Moore's new residence?" Win asked.

  "Maybe."

  A pickup truck was parked at the top of Hunter Moore's long driveway, blocking access.

  "Seems he doesn't welcome visitors," Win said.

  They parked on the road. Myron and Win got out of the car. Everything echoed in the stillness--the car doors closing, their feet hitting the dirt road. Myron had read once that a sound never fully dies, that if you scream in woods like these, the echo will just keep reverberating, traveling, growing fainter and fainter but never disappearing in total. Myron didn't know whether that was true or not, but if it was, he could imagine a scream here staying vibrant for too long.

  "What are you thinking about?" Win asked him.

  "How screams echo."

  "You're fun."

  "Remind me never to buy a lake house."

  They walked past the pickup truck and up the drive. Up ahead, in a front yard overlooking all of Lake Charmaine, Hunter Moore sat on an Adirondack chair. He didn't get up when he spotted them. He didn't wave or nod or show any signs he saw them coming. He just kept his gaze on the horizon, on his perfect view of Lake Charmaine. A whiskey bottle sat on his right.

  There was a rifle on his lap.

  "Hey, Hunter," Myron said.

  Win moved to the side a bit, putting distance between him and Myron. Myron got it. Don't give anyone two targets so close together.

  Hunter smiled up at him. It was the smile of the heavily inebriated. "Hey, Myron." The sun was in his eyes, so Hunter used his hand to block it. "Is that you, Win?"

  "Yes," Win said.

  "You're back?"

  "No."

  "Huh?"

  "I'm kidding," Win said.

  "Oh." Hunter's cackle-laugh ripped through the stillness. The sound almost made Myron jump. "Good one, Win."

  Win looked at Myron. The look said that they had nothing to fear. There was no way Hunter would be able to reach for his rifle and aim it before Win, who was always armed, took him out. They moved closer.

  "Look at that," Hunter said with awe, gesturing at the vista behind them.

  Myron looked. Win didn't.

  "Unbelievable, right?" Hunter said. "This spot"--he shook his head in wonderment--"it's like God painted this giant canvas himself."

  "If you think about it," Win said, "he did."

  "Whoa," Hunter said, like a stoner. Myron wondered whether he had consumed substances other than alcohol. "That's so true."

  "Where's Patrick?" Myron asked.

  "I don't know."

  Myron pointed to the house behind him. "Is he inside?"

  "Nope."

  "How about Nancy?"

  Hunter shook his head. "Also nope."

  "Can we all go inside?"

  Hunter kept shaking his head. "No reason to; no one in there. A beautiful day like this is to be cherished. We got a couple of chairs, if you want to sit and enjoy the view with me."

  Myron took him up on the offer. This chair too was turned to the lake, so that Myron and Hunter sat side by side, both facing the view rather than each other. Win stayed standing.

  "We really need to find Patrick," Myron said.

  "Did you call Nancy?"

  "She's not answering. Where are they?"

  Hunter still had the rifle on his lap. His hand had been slowly sliding toward the trigger, almost indiscernibly. "He needs time, Myron. Can you imagine what his last ten years have been like?"

  "Can you imagine," Win said, "what Rhys's current year is still like?"

  Hunter winced when he heard that and closed his eyes. Myron was tempted to grab the rifle, but Win shook him off. He was right. The rifle was not a threat. Not with Win nearby. If they snatched it away, Hunter would clam up, get defensive. Let him keep his security blanket.

  "You met Lionel," Hunter said. "Dr. Stanton, I mean. He says that if you want Patrick to open up, he needs time. We want a quiet, simple life for him."

  "Is that why Nancy is moving him out here?"

  A slow smile came to his lips. "This place has always been my solace. I'm third generation here. My grandfather taught my father how to fly-fish on that lake. My father taught me. When Patrick was little, I taught him. We'd catch sunnies and trout and . . ."

  His voice faded away.

  Win looked at Myron with flat eyes and played the air violin.

  "I realize how hard this must have been on you," Myron tried.

  "I'm not looking for pity."

  "Of course not."

  "It's like . . ." Hunter never took his eyes off the lake, never so much as glanced at Myron or Win. "It's like I've lived two lives. I was one person--a normal, ordinary person, really--up until that day. And then, poof, I was someone else entirely after. Like we all walked through some science fiction portal and entered a different world."

  "Everything changed," Myron said, trying to keep him going.

  "Yes."

  "You got divorced."

  "Right." His hand found the bottle, his eyes still glued to the vista. "I don't know. That might have happened anyway. But yeah, Nancy and I broke up. The constant reminder of what happened, the horror, and this person, your life partner, she's just there every day, in your face, poking your memory, you know what I mean?"

  "I do."

  "The pressure becomes so great. I mean, maybe if there are no cracks to start with, you can get past it. But I couldn't handle it. So I ran away. I lived overseas for a while. But I couldn't move on. The horror, the images . . . I started drinking. A lot. Then I would do AA, get better for a little while, start drinking again, sober up. I kept cycling like that. Lather, rinse, repeat."

  Hunter held up the bottle. "Guess where I am in the cycle now?"

  Silence. Myron crushed it.

  "Did you know about the texts between your wife and Chick Baldwin?"

  The muscles in his face stiffened. "When?"

  Interesting response, Myron thought. He looked at Win. Win found it interesting too. "Does that matter?"

  "No," Hunter said. "I don't know, don't care. And she isn't my wife."

  Myron turned toward him. "I'm talking about back then. Before your son disappeared. Nancy and Chick were close to having an affair. Maybe they went through with it; I don't know."

  Hunter's grip on the gun tightened. He still stared out, but if the view was offering even an iota of comfort, you wouldn't know it from his face. "Who cares?"

  "Did you know?"

  "No."

  He said it too quickly. Myron looked toward Win. Win said, "I found Fat Gandhi."

  That got Hunter's attention. "Is he in jail?"

  "No."

  "I don't understand."

  "He told me that Rhys is dead."

  "Oh my God," Hunter said, but the surprise in his voice sounded forced. "He killed him?"

  "No. He never met Rhys. He said that Patrick told him that Rhys is dead."

  "He said what?"

  Win bit back a sigh. "Please don't make me repeat myself."

  Hunter shook his head. "So let me get this straight. This psycho criminal who stabbed and almost killed my son"--Hunter looked at Win, then at Myron, then back at Win--"you believe him?"

  "We do," Win said.

  "Hunter," Myron tried, "don't you think Patrick owes the Baldwins the truth?"

  "Of course. Of course they're owed the truth." Hunter looked stunned now. "I'll try to talk to Patrick about this as soon as I can. See what he says."

  "Hunter?"

  It was Win.

  "Yeah?"

  "I'd like to use your washroom before we leave."

  Hunter smiled up at him. "You think they're inside?"

  "I wouldn't know," Win said. "Either way, I need to urinate."

  Only Win could use the word "urinate" in a completely natural way in a nonmedical setting.

  "Use a tree."

  "I don't use trees, Hunter."

  "Fine."

  As he started to his feet, Win easily grabbed the rifle from him, which was the closest thing to the old saw about stealing candy from a baby Myron had ever witnessed.

  "I got a license," Hunter said. "I can shoot deer on my property. It's perfectly legal."

  Win looked at Myron. "Would it be beneath me to note that Hunter is a hunter?"

  "Way beneath," Myron said.

  "Har-har." Hunter stumbled toward the house. "Come on," he said. "Let's get you, uh, urinating and out of here."

  Chapter 30

  Back in the car, Myron asked, "How was your urination?"

  "Hilarious. They aren't there. He's alone. For now."

  Myron knew that had been Win's play with the "urination" request. "So why was he holding the rifle?"

  "Perhaps he was hunting. It's his property. He has the right. Perhaps that's his thing."

  "Hunting?"

  "Yes. He sits out there on a lovely day, enjoys his view, imbibes his whiskey--then a deer strolls by and he blasts it."

  "Sounds like an awesome time."

  "Don't judge," Win said.

  "You don't hunt."

 
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